It is quite common, among those who practice the Jewish religion, to place a small stone or pebble on the gravestone, usually a headstone, of loved ones. This tradition is a way for many to connect with their loved ones and ancestors. The act, however, has old origins.
Old burial practices
Many years ago, Jewish burials were very from different from what they are today. The deceased’s body was not buried in a coffin in a deep grave, as is the custom now. Instead, the mourners would bury the deceased only in simple clothing. More specifically, the dead were buried in shrouds, which were often made of linen. A man could also be buried in his prayer shawl, called a talis in Hebrew. The simple burial garb made all equal.
As mentioned, the dead were not buried in a deep grave. Instead, according to tradition, they were buried closer the ground surface, but under a stone mound.
It was customary for mourners and visitors to keep the grave covered. This is where the current tradition was born: people passing by a grave would place a few stones on top of the mound, to keep the grave covered and to symbolically care for the deceased.
Evolution of a tradition
As time went by, Judaism adopted current burial practices. However, cemetery visitors still place a small pebble or rock on the deceased’s headstone or tombstone. This is similar to the actions that Jewish grave visitors performed centuries ago. Some may describe the modern day practice as caring for their ancestors or honoring the dead. Thus, the symbolic nature of the tradition has not changed.
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