Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Do We Put Rocks On Headstones?

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Dear Tanta Golda,
Recently I visited a cemetery and I noticed that quite a number of headstones had rocks on them. Is this a Jewish custom? What does it mean?
N. The Wonderer
Dear Wonderer,
Indeed it is a Jewish custom to leave a small pebble on a headstone. Some learned people say it is a way to let the family know that others have visited, others say it is a symbol of your enduring love for the departed. 
You may ask, Tanta Golda, how did this custom come to be? Well my dears, some Rabbis say that by placing a stone on a grave we participate in the building of the tomb, which is a mitzvah. Still others believe that it was an ancient custom that whenever someone passed a mound of stones marking a grave, they would pick up a stone from the area that might have fallen off and return it to the pile. This was seen as a sign of thoughtfulness, since mounds of heavy rocks helped to keep predatory animals away. 
I came across another explanation having to do with the spirits of the newly departed, but I don’t wish to frighten any kinder who might be reading this!
Keep on writing,
Tanta Golda

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