Permanent Memorials & Stones
“Those we loved and lost live on in us, as we will live on in those we love. For love is as strong as death, and the good we do never dies.
- Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
Permanent memorials are a lasting legacy to remember your loved one. Choosing the perfect wording is often emotional and difficult. We can help guide you on many options and in wordsmithing and capturing the sentiment and your remembrance of your loved one for many years to come.
In Judaism, graves must be marked with a simple headstone, or Matzava. Judaism teaches that “all are equal in death,” with this in mind it might serve as a guide when choosing a marker. A headstone serves to identify the grave so that relatives and friends will find it when they visit and honor the memory of the deceased. Judaism makes no stipulations as to the size or type of marker or monument. However, most cemeteries have specific guidelines.
Although it is not required to have an unveiling or dedication service, many families choose to have some sort of ceremony when the grave marker is put in place. Traditionally, the headstone can be put into place anytime after Shloshim (30 day mourning period), but most families choose a time close to the first Yahrzeit.
Why a place to visit is important
To remember and to be remembered are natural human needs. A permanent memorial in a cemetery provides a focal point for remembrance and memorializing the deceased. Throughout human history, memorialization of the dead has been a key component of almost every culture. Psychologists say that remembrance practices, from the funeral or memorial service to permanent memorials, serve an important emotional function for survivors by helping them bring closure and allowing the healing process to begin. Providing a permanent resting place for the deceased is a dignified treatment for a loved one’s mortal remains, which fulfills the natural human desire for memorialization.
Stones on Graves
For thousands of years rocks and stones of varying sizes have been used in burial rituals whether to cover the deceased body, mark the burial site to help locate it in the future, or to memorialize the individual. This ancient tradition has been replaced with a modern day marker, but in Judaism, we still honor the tradition with a pebble or stone as we visit our loved one’s gravesite.
There are several possible explanations for this custom:
- Family Will Know Someone Visited
Stones being placed on a grave lets the family know that someone cared enough to visit the grave. It communicates that the loved one is still thought about and missed.
- Honor the Deceased
The stones on a grave is a physical way to honor the deceased. Stones last longer physically than flowers. They are everlasting and permanent like the memory of the deceased.
- It’s a Mitzvah
It is considered a mitzvah to mark a grave with a stone. Each mourner adds a stone to the collection on the grave.
No matter what the reason you have for following the Jewish tradition of laying stones on a grave, the act of doing so is special and brings comfort to those who mourn.