What is an unveiling

No one has actually asked me, however I am going to take this opportunity to teach you about the custom of unveiling a marker in the Jewish tradition.

Reprinted from myjewishlearning.com

Since ancient times, it has been the custom to mark the grave with a stone or monument. After Rachel died, “Jacob erected a monument on Rachel’s grave” (Genesis 35:20). The marker or monument serves to identify the grave so that relatives will find it when they visit, honor the memory of the deceased, and identify a place of burial…

Jewish tradition makes no stipulation as to the size or type of marker or monument, but most cemeteries have specific guidelines. The Jewish teaching that all are equal in death often serves as a guide to choosing an appropriate headstone.

The marker usually includes: the English and Hebrew name of the deceased, the dates of birth and death in English and Hebrew, and the relationship to other family members (i.e., father/mother, husband/wife, grandfather/grandmother, sister/ brother, etc.).

Unveiling

It is customary for the grave marker to be put in place and for an unveiling ceremony to be held after the Kaddish period [11 months for parents and 30 days for other close relatives] is over, but no later than one year after the death. While many families wait until almost the full year has passed to do the unveiling, it may be done sooner; in Israel the stone is usually placed soon after sheloshim [the first 30 days of mourning].Jewish headstone

It is customary, before leaving the gravesite, to place a small stone on the marker to indicate that someone has visited the grave. This tradition may also reflect the biblical practice of marking the grave with a pile of stones. Or, it may be the end result of the custom of writing notes to the deceased and pushing them into crevices in the headstone just as notes are pushed into the Western Wall in Jerusalem. When no crevice could be found, the note was weighted down with a stone. In time, the paper disintegrated or blew away leaving only the stone. Thus, some began to think that the leaving of a stone was the custom… and so it became the custom.

THE DIVA and I are leaving Thursday for the unveiling service. This weekend will also mark one year since MY MOM died (the date on the Jewish calendar was 5 Kislev and won’t happen for a few more weeks). As you can see from the somewhat lengthy description above, the unveiling is important mostly because I believe it is a part of the path acknowledging that life is different now and forever will be.

 

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About rabbisteinman

I am a rabbi living in North America. I was ordained from HUC-JIR. This is my blog.
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