I was just curious if anyone knows what the inyan of a vacht nacht is?
Inyan of a Vacht Nacht(6 posts)
As described in Edut L'Yisrael: Sheiruta di'Tzlota (a text on customs surrounding weddings and births in Judaism, published in Israel c. 1960), the current practice appears to be a combination of two distinct customs.
Firstly, as stressed in the Kabbalistic sources, the night before the circumcision is considered a spiritually dangerous time for the baby; as such, the father would gather ten men to conduct a vigil to study Torah to protect him from metaphysical damage. Thus, this night is given the Yiddish name, "night of watching [or 'guarding']".
Secondly, non-Kabbalistic sources describe a practice several centuries old that on the Friday night before the bris milah, a melamed would take his preschool-age students to say Shema near the baby, and afterwards receive candy (or their equivalent at that point in history, namely nuts or dried fruit.)
nobody: would you elaborate on the second reason? (i.e. its application today being that it seems either way we do it the night before the bris)
As Nobody stated, However there is more to this than what is commonly known.
which is attributed to Kabbalistic sources.
Although it is of a controversial nature, So I'll steer clear.
The earliest references to this custom of Wach-nacht are from sixteenth century Germany, but it seems it was practiced centuries before . Before a bris is performed, the baby and the mother are susceptible to harm from evil spirits. This is especially acute for the baby on the night before the bris, hence the prayer and/or study vigil around his bed. In early times, candles were lit and food was put out on a table to placate these destructive spirits. After the bris the danger dissipates as the child is a full fledged Jew and has the same spritual protection as anyone else. Also explains why for a female this is unncessary, she is full fledged from birth.
I think the reason that nowadays we do Kriyas Shema the night before a Bris and not on Friday night has evolved out of sheer practicality - distance 'n all that. family driving into state etc.
Anything Kabalistic I steer well away from.
Either way, it's a lovely custom
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