why do people put stones on grave markers

Learn the reasons for this distinctive mourning practice. By The Jewish tradition of leaving is an ancient one, and its origins are unclear. It is a custom or tradition, rather than a commandment, and over time many interpretations have been offered for this practice. Here are some explanations: Warning To Kohanim (Jewish Priests) During the times of the in Jerusalem, Jewish priests (
kohanim ) became ritually impure if they came within four feet of a corpse. As a result, Jews began marking graves with piles of rocks in order to indicate to passing kohanim that they should stay back.


To Keep the Soul in This World The Talmud mentions that after a person dies her soul conВtinues to dwell for a while in the grave where she was buried. Putting stones on a grave keeps the soul down in this world, which some people find comforting. Another related interpretation suggests that the stones keep from getting into the graves. Stones Last LongerВ Than Flowers Flowers, though beautiful, will eventually die. A stone will not die, and can symbolize the permanence of memory and legacy.


A Hebrew Pun Rabbi Simkha Weintraub, rabbinic director of the offered another traditional interpretation: The Hebrew word for вpebbleв is tzвror в and it happens that this Hebrew word also means вbond. в When we pray the memorial El Maleh Rahamim prayer (and at other times) we ask that the deceased be вbound up in the bond of lifeв в tzвror haHayyim. В By placing the stone, we show that we have been there, and that the individualвs memory continues to live on in and through us.


Many people take special care in choosing a stone to put on the grave of a loved one. It may be a stone from a place that was significant to the deceased, a stone that was chosen at an event during which the deceased was especially missed, or simply an interesting or attractive rock. Because there is no commandment to fulfill here, placing a stone on a grave is an opportunity for you to create your own ritual, or do things in the way that feels most meaningful to you.


Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning. com are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. The earliest graves may have been covered by a mound of stones. Though we erect tombstones today, a stone or pebble placed on a head or footstone reminds us of those first humble gravesites. This simple act has come to be a great sign of respect of our deceased loved ones. It is come to signify that the grave has recently been visited and that the deceased have not been forgotten.


To make this simple ritual even more meaningful, some bring a pebble or stone from their own garden to place on the tombstone, or select a brightly colored stone to place at the grave. Placing a stone on the grave of a loved one is a tradition that may be personalized to create meaning and bring comfort. For a deeper understanding and a personal perspective on this custom, you may wish to refer to this New Jersey Jewish News about visiting my grandmothers grave.