Honorees at the Brit
The following is a list of honorees at a Brit ceremony, what they do, who traditionally is selected for the honor, and how important the honor is seen to be:
1. The kvatterin (colloquially: godmother) carries the baby from his mother to the Brit room, where she hands him to the kvatter. After the Brit is over, she brings him back to his mother. This is the one formal honor bestowed upon a woman at a Brit.
In some communities the baby is passed from woman to woman, each bringing him closer to the Brit room.
2. The kvatter (colloquially: godfather) carries the baby from the kvatterin to the Brit area and, after the Brit, back to the kvatterin.
In some communities the baby is passed from man to man, each bringing the baby closer to the brit area.
Some emphasize that the kvatter and kvatterin be a married couple, and the kvatterin not be pregnant. Often, the kvatterin and kvatter are a couple seeking to have a child, as this honor is deemed propitious for this purpose.
3. Places the baby on the chair designated as the Throne of Elijah. Some place great emphasis on this honor.
4. Takes the baby from the Throne of Elijah and gives him to his father, who places him on the sandek’s lap.
5. The sandek holds the baby during the circumcision. This is the highest honor at a Brit. The sandek is equated to a kohen burning an incense offering in the Beit HaMikdash, and the position of sandek is considered to be one of merit for long life and prosperity. Many single out the rabbi or the baby’s grandfather for this honor.
6. Takes the baby from the sandek at the conclusion of the circumcision and gives him to the “standing sandek.”
7. The “standing sandek” holds the baby while the blessings and prayer are recited and the baby is given his Jewish name. The Arizal considers this to be an important honor.
8. The one who is honored with reading the blessings recites the two blessings following the circumcision. This honor is often bestowed on the rabbi, mohel, or sandek.
9. The one who is honored with giving the name recites the prayer during which the baby is given his Jewish name. This honor is often bestowed on the rabbi, mohel, or sandek, and it is often combined with that of reciting the blessings.
10. The leader of Birchas HaMazon (Grace after Meals) recites the invitation to begin the Grace after Meals following the festive meal and recites the special Harachamon prayers. In some communities, the mohel is accorded this honor. In others, a different person recites each Harachamon prayer.
The mother gives the child to the kvatterin, who passes him to the kvatter, who then passes him to the person who will place him on the Chair of Elijah. He is then taken from the chair and given to the father, who places the child in the lap of the sandek. The mohel then performs the Brit. Afterwards, the child is taken from the sandek’s lap and given to the standing sandek; the blessings are recited, and the name is given. Then the child is returned to the mother by way of the kvatter and kvatterin.