As part of every ashkenazi brit milah ceremony I have attended, the baby was passed from a woman (the kvatterin) to a man (the kvatter, always her husband?) who then brought the baby in to the synagogue, before the baby is given to the baby's father (and from him to someone else who placed the baby on the kisei shel eliyahu).

What sources discuss this honour of kvatter/in? When does it seem to have started?

I am aware of Rema in Yoreh De'ah 265:11 who writes that a woman brings the baby to the synagogue, and then hands him to her husband who is the sandak. When did this intermediate stage of a kvatter taking the baby from his wife (rather than the sandak's wife) and taking the baby towards the sandak begin?

  • related but not duplicate: Etymology of the word “Kvater”
    – mbloch
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 9:38
  • see also here for the sources as well as Arukh Hashulkhan around YD 265:35
    – mbloch
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 9:44
  • Perhaps, I was a nervous parent. (I still am.) I didn't allow any non-family member to touch my babies. Personally, I'm surprised that people are doing this, but, again, maybe it's my own phobia.
    – DanF
    Commented Feb 11, 2019 at 17:18

1 Answer 1


A small contribution to an answer. I have not had time to check the sources quoted.

Daat.ac.il has an article on bris milah Shmuel Pinchas Gelbard writes:

המכניס את הילד למקום שבו נימול נקרא "כפאטיר" או קוואטער(בלעז) נזכר לראשונה בלקט יושר ח"א או"ח עמ' 97וח"ב יו"ד עמ' 54, מנהגי יהדות אשכנז פרושים)כז

The one who brings the child to the place of the bris is called "כפאטיר" [the כ meaning like and פאטיר like “pater” in Latin meaning father] or kvater in the local language. It is first mentioned in the the sefer “Leket Yosher” O Ch part 1, page 97 and YD part 2, page 54.

ועוד,י"א שמקור השם מלשון קטורת.מאחר שהוקשה מילה לקטורת (כח),לכן נקרא מגיש התינוק למילה קוטר,כפי שאמרו (כריתות ו:) (מה לשוןקטורת דבר שקוטר ועולה. (ומ"קוטר" בוא"ו אחד השתנה ל"קווטר" בשני וא"וין) (ערוה"ש יו"ד סי' רסה ס"ק לה)

There are those who understand the word kvater as coming from the word קטורת because bris miloh is compared to the קטורת – spice offering. So the one who brings the child to the procedure is called קוטר which later attracted another “vov” and became קווטר see Oruch HaShulchan YD 265 (35).

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