why do they put stones on graves

One of the most common Jewish cemetery customs is to leave a small stone at the gravesite of a loved one after saying Kaddish or visiting. Its origins are rooted in ancient times and throughout the centuries the tradition of leaving a visitation stone has become part of the act of remembrance. The origin of this custom began long ago, when the deceased was not placed in a casket, but rather the body was prepared, washed, and wrapped in a burial shroud, or for a male, in his
tallit (prayer shawl). Then the body would be placed in the ground, covered with dirt and then large stones would be placed atop the gravesite, preventing wild animals from destroying the remains.


Over time, individuals would go back to the gravesite and continue to place stones, ensuring the security of the site and as a way to build up the memory of the loved one. As time passed on, and carved monuments became the preferred memorial, the custom of leaving a small visitation stone became a symbolic gesture a way for the visitor to say of the loved one, I remember you. Another explanation of this custom is derived from the phrase often inscribed on a headstone that reads: t hey nishmato tsurura b tsor hachayim (may the soul be bound up in the bonds of eternal life).


Interestingly, the word tsurura (bound) is related to the word tsur, a pebble kept by shepherds in their slings to keep track of the number of sheep in the herd. It is fitting that we ask G-d, our shepherd, at this time of year to remember each soul and keep it in His protection. (Rabbi David Wolpe, www. myjewishlearning. com). Cemetery visitation is particularly high during the time of year prior to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.


JCAM provides for this custom on its cemeteries by filling receptacles with small stones for our visitors to leave, so you too, can continue with this ancient custom of remembering. L Shana Tovah! As opposed to the common practice of burying loved ones with flowers and placing flowers by the tombstone, Jewish tradition instead puts an emphasis on placing stones on graves. Jewish authorities likely objected to the flower ritual because of its proximity to pagan customs. The origin of the stone custom is uncertain, though it may relate to ancient times when a pile of stones was used as a marker.


The most common explanation is that placing stones is a symbolic act that indicates someone has come to visit and the deceased has not been forgotten. A superstitious rationale for stones is that they keep the soul down, based on a belief that souls continue to dwell for a while in the graves in which they are placed. A more common theme, however, is that stones last for eternity - as opposed to the short life span of flowers. Like the memory our loved ones, stones will never die. Sources

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