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Typically, even when visiting Jewish graves of someone that the visitor never knew, he or she would leave a small stone at the graveside. This shows that someone had visited, and represents permanence. Leaving flowers is not a traditional Jewish practice. Another reason for leaving stones is tending the grave. In Biblical times, gravestones were not used; graves were marked with mounds of stones, so by placing (or replacing) them, one perpetuated the existence of the site

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โˆ™ 2007-11-19 14:40:05
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Q: Why do Jews leave stones on the grave of a loved one?
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1. The Midrash Lekach Tov (Pesikta Zutra 35:20) relates that each of Jacob's sons took a stone and put it on Rachel's grave to make up Rachel's tomb. From this we learn that by placing stones on the grave one participates in building up the tombstone. In those days one did not mark a grave with marble or granite and a fancy inscription, but one made a cairn of stones over it. Each mourner coming and adding a stone was effectively taking part in the Mitzvah of matzevah ("setting a marker") as well as a symbolic levayat ha-meyt ("accompanying the dead"). Our present practice seems to be commemorative of this ancient tradition. 2. The book Ta'amey Ha-Minhagim (The Reasons for the Customs, pp. 470-471) says, "We put pebbles on the grave to show that the visitor was at the grave. It was a sort of calling-card for the honor of the deceased, to mark that you have paid a visit." (See also Orach Haim 224:8). A contemporary respondent, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, confirms this custom, noting Eliyahu Rabba 224:7 as his source (Responsa Yabia Omer IV, Yoreh Deah 35).

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