The custom of placing a monument over the grave of a departed person is a very ancient Jewish tradition. The Book of Genesis says that Jacob erected a tombstone over the grave of his wife Rachel. Since then, wherever Jewish communities have existed, Jews have continued this practice of erecting a memorial in honour of their deceased. erecting a memorial in honor of their deceased.
The monument is erected to clearly show where a person is buried, so that family and friends may visit the grave site, as well as remembering and honoring the memory of the person who has died.
The formal ceremony of consecrating a monument is called an “unveiling”. An unveiling takes place anytime during the11 months after death.
The unveiling is a mourning ritual providing mourners with the opportunity for emotional and psychological healing, as well as honouring the departed and reflecting on their life.. The physical act of erecting and unveiling a monument allows people to express their emotions of sadness and grief. For those people who were not able to attend the funeral or Shiva, the unveiling ritual provides another opportunity to grieve. This ritual can be very healing for mourners.
When the name of the family member is seen etched in stone on the monument, it is a realization of the finality of death. The impact can be quite startling and can also provide acceptance of the loss, and to affirm a commitment to life and to living.
The monument then becomes a memory of a person’s life and is permanently etched into the memory of the Jewish community.
It is customary to leave a small stone at the grave, on the memorial stone of a loved one as a way for the visitor to say to the loved one, “I remember you…”