Monday, October 11, 2010

GRAVESTONES - STONES ON GRAVES

There is this Jewish tradition to leave a stone on the grave after the burial and whenever visiting the grave. Why is this practiced and where does it come from?
After searching for the reason I came to the conclusion that there is no sophisticated answer to it. It is simply a symbol of remembering the deceased. It is an act of kindness and mitzvah to put a marker on the grave and a pebble is most suitable. It will stay there, no wind will blow it away, it will not wilt like a flower and not go out like a candle. 

The stone says: I was here, I remember you, you are in my heart, I love you! Or it may say: I respect you, I admire you, I appreciate your deeds! It may say: I long for you, I miss you! It may say: I came to cry, to weep, but I am comforted now! It may say: I was here, I don't know you, but I honor your memory!
 
There is not an exact answer to it. In ancient times, before this tradition started, piles of stones would be put on the graves to protect them from the elements and from animals. That was way before inscribed tombstones were erected over the burial plot. Maybe visitors and passersby added a stone to the mount and offered a prayer out of respect for the person buried there. Each stone would maybe leave the message that someone came, stopped, gave thought and went on with his journey.

I like this custom very much. We visited two grave yards this weekend. The ancient cemetery of Safed and the beautiful old cemetery of Kinnereth on the shore of the Lake of Galilee..
The ancient cemetery of Sefad in the Galilee is scattered on a steep slope on the western side of the city, facing mount Meron. It contains graves from biblical to Talmudic periods and many Tzaddikim are buried there, great sages, rabbis and Jewish leaders, and at any given time there are callers at this place, which is holy for many.


The old Kinnereth cemetery was founded by the members of the Kibutz Kinnereth at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is located near the lake of Galilee, looking out over the sea to the Golan Heights, offering a marvelous tranquil view. Pioneer leaders of the early Zionist movement are buried there as well as famous folks, like the lovely poetess Rachel and the beloved song writer Naomi Shemer.
It is peaceful there, the big old beautiful trees providing shade and you can hear Rachel whispering, and Naomi singing...

11 comments:

aurorafedora said...

yael, what a beautiful and educational post! love the pictures and the sentiment!

zsazsazsu said...

This is indeed a very interesting post. I will remember this with every stone I use in my jewelry. thx for sharing

Eva said...

Yes, I can imagine this custom to be a symbolic contribution to restoring the grave mound.

Bloomsbury said...

Eine schöne Idee, Steine aufs Grab zu legen. ;)

rachel awes said...

i have always
LOVED
this tradition!
oh, to take the time
with all we hold dear
& set down our stones...
both in our living
& our dying.
love to you!! xox

Smithy said...

Yael, I love this post. What a beautiful tradition. A pebble can be so articulate and is a lovely way to remember and honour those who have gone before us....

Hilde said...

This is a beautiful tradition, Yael :) Thank you for such a lovely and interesting post.

2 B's World said...

Es ist eine schöne Tradition, Steine auf die Gräber zu legen. Gesehen habe ich es auch schon (im TV) und hatte mich gefragt, wie diese Tradition entstanden ist und welche Bedeutung sie hat. Du hast wunderschöne Worte dazu gefunden. Deine Worte zusammen mit den Bildern berühren mich sehr.

Liebe Grüße von 2 B's

Dawn of LaTouchables said...

How very beautiful.

XO

glazedOver said...

This tradition is so deeply rooted in my psyche that I cannot leave a cemetary, any cemetary--whether I know somebody buried there or not--without feeling the urge to place a stone on a grave. In my heart, it symbolizes so many things, least of which are respect and love.

Such a meaningful post, Yael. And Naomi Shemer has always been one of our favorites. How poignant to stitch together her music with this tradition.

Bernstein said...

Diese Bilder führen mich wieder einmal zurück in meine Kindheit. In unserer Nähe gab es einen fast vergessenen und wild überwuchernten jüdischen Friedhof. Als Kind haben mich die Steine auf den Grabsteinen fasziniert. Bei manchen dieser Steine konnte man sehen, dass jemand sie von weit her mitgebracht hat oder sie wegen ihrer besonderen Form oder Farbe ausgesucht worden waren. Ich habe mir immer Geschichten zu den Steinen ausgedacht, erst viel später habe ich erfahren, was sie eigentlich bedeuten. Und durch Deinen Post habe ich nun erneut dazugelernt.
GlG Inbar