General History of the Wimpel

The first wimpelin (pl) were made in Germany in the mid 1600's. They were created for male children from the swaddling cloth used to hold them for their Brit Milah. This fabric was later taken, cleaned, cut and sewn in a long strip. Then, as in present day, the custom continues with the prayer, inscribed on the plain fabric, including the words ‘this boy, the son of _(family name)_, born under the good star of _(birthdate)_, may grow up to study Torah, marry under the Chuppah and to do good deeds.’ This is the central and immediate idea. Some wimpelin were embroidered, while most were decorated with colored fabric inks. It was usual for a family member or talented artisan in the congregation to take on the task of creating the newborn’s wimpel.

 

When the young boy had reached the age of his first haircut, about 1-1/2 years of age, he was then taken to shul by his father. His wimpel would be presented to the congregation. It was left, together with other wimpelin from members of the congregation. These wimpelin would later be brought out and used as Torah binders on the occasion of their B'nai Mitzvot. In the past, each congregation had kept it's wimpelin stored away. They later came to provide an interesting ‘record’ of shul family membership and were considered gifts to their congregations.*

 

 

*Strassfeld, Sharon and Michael, The Second Jewish Catalog. The Jewish Publication Society of America: Philadelphia, USA, 5737-1976, pgs. 40-43.

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