Why do the Jewish people put stones on a grave instead of leaving flowers
Question: Why do Jews put stones on graves instead of leaving flowers? Is there a ritual or blessing that goes along with this practice?
–Anna, New York
Answer: The Jewish tradition of leaving stones or pebbles on a graveis an ancient one, and its origins are unclear. It is a custom or tradition, rather than a commandment, and over time many interpretations have been offered for this practice. Here are some of my favorite explanations:
–During the times of the Temple in Jerusalem, Jewish priests (kohanim) became ritually impure if they came within four feet of a corpse. As a result, Jews began marking graves with piles of rocks in order to indicate to passing kohanim that they should stay back.
–The Talmud mentions that after a person dies her soul continues to dwell for a while in the grave where she was buried. Putting stones on a grave keeps the soul down in this world, which some people find comforting. Another related interpretation suggests that the stones keep demons and golems from getting into the graves.
–Flowers, though beautiful, will eventually die. A stone will not die, and can symbolize the permanence of memory and legacy.
–Rabbi Simkha Weintraub, Rabbinic director of the New
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