why do they put rocks on jewish headstones

There are many bereavement customs in the Jewish faith, and the practice of these customs varies among the different denominations of Judaism. Many Jewish bereavement traditions that are still practiced today are based on centuries-old rituals. One such custom involves placing a stone on the marker of the grave. There are a few different theorized origins of this custom. The first theory states that the practice of placing a rock on the headstone is meant to mirror the ancient method of marking a gravesite. In ancient times, many cultures marked graves with cairns, piles of stones. Sometimes these cairns were small and temporary, used to mark the grave until a large slab could be found. Other ancient writings suggest that mourners participated in the building of a cairn to mark their loved ones tomb and to express their grief. Some religious scholars believe that the act of placing a stone on a gravestone may be a modern incarnation of these ancient practices. Another theory about the origin of this practice addresses a mourner's desire to leave some trinket at the gravesite. In some cultural and religious practices, flowers are placed at gravesites. This is not typically the case in Jewish tradition, but the stones left on the headstone may have a similar purpose. Leaving a pebble at the gravesite is a symbolic way of saying that the deceased will not be forgotten and a tangible sign to show other mourners that someone has visited the grave and remembered.


Stones have special significance. The prophet Isaiah wrote that All flesh is grass, and all its beauty like the flower of the field; grass withers and flowers fade. " By contrast, stones do not die. While flowers may represent the temporary state of life, pebbles placed on a gravestone can symbolize that the memory of the deceased will endure beyond death. There are other customs that may have inspired this tradition. Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles points to an ancient system shepherds used to keep count of their flocks. Shepherds kept a count of their sheep by tallying them with pebbles in their slings. When stones are placed on the headstones, Rabbi Wolpe says this may symbolize the soul being added to Gods sling. At the Western Wall in Jerusalem, prayers are written on small pieces of paper and placed in crevices in the Wall. Sometimes, prayers are placed under stones on or near the Wall if no crevices can be found. Over time the papers disintegrate, leaving behind only the stones. Some believe that these stones at the Wall inspired the stones that are left at gravesites.
If youve ever visited a cemetery and noticed rocks placed atop headstones, you might have been left puzzled.


Why would someone visiting a gravesite leave hard, cold rocks instead of flowers abundant with life? Although flowers and vegetable life have played a for many cultures since the dawn of man, flowers have never been a part of the traditional Jewish burial process. Throughout the ( Brachot 43a and Betzah 6a, for example) there are references to the use of small twigs or spices used in burial, but the consensus of the rabbis is that this is a tradition of pagan peoples not the Israelite nation. In, altars are merely piles of stones, and yet these altars are incredibly important points of references in the history of the Jewish people and Israel. Flowers, according to 40:6-7, are an excellent metaphor for life. All flesh is grass, and all its beauty like the flower of the field; grass withers and flowers fade. Rocks, on the other hand, are forever; they do not die, and they serve as a striking metaphor for the permanence of memory. Ultimately, however, the origins for this tradition are incredibly obscure and many different meanings are offered. There are countless deeper meanings behind why rocks are placed on Jewish headstones.


In fact, many Jewish headstones have written in Hebrew an acronym . . . . . For a man, the phrase in Hebrew is: For a woman, the phrase in Hebrew is: This translates as May his/her soul be bound in life (the transliteration is Tehe nishmato/nishmatah tzrurah btzror hachayim ), with tzror being a package or bundle. The words originate in I Samuel 25:29, when Abigail says to King David, But my lords soul shall be bound in the bond of life with the Lord your God. The idea behind this concept is based on how Israelite shepherds would keep tabs on their flock. Because shepherds didnt always have the same number of sheep to look after, each day theyd care a bundle or package and place a single pebble inside for each live sheep they were caring for that day. This allowed the shepherd to make sure he always had the accurate number of sheep in his flock, the bundle was a tzar hachayim. Furthermore, an obscure translation of pebble in Hebrew is actually a tzror even ( ), making the ties between the pebbles placed on headstones and the eternal nature of the soul even stronger. A more colorful (and superstitious) reason for placing stones on the graves of the deceased are that stones keep the soul buried.


With roots in the Talmud, this thought arises from the belief that the soul of the deceased continues to dwell within the body while in the grave. Some even believe that some aspect of the deceaseds soul actually continues to dwell in the grave, also called the beit olam (permanent home, or home forever). This theme of the deceaseds soul needing to be kept down plays a role in several folktales, including the stories of, who wrote about souls that returned to the world of the living. The stones, then, played a vital role in keeping the souls in their place so they wouldnt return to take part in any haunting or other nefarious activities. Other explanations suggest that placing a rock on a headstone honors the deceased because it shows others that the individual buried there is cared for and remembered, with each stone serving as a someone was here nod. This might inspire a passerby to investigate who is buried there, which could lead to new honors for the departeds soul. In recent years, several companies have popped up offering customized stones or stones from Israel for placement on Jewish graves. for signing up. If this sounds like something that interests you,.

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