A Lesson From the Grave (stone)

by Emunah

Considering traditional Rosh Hashanah visits to the kever avot (graves of the fathers), I spent an interesting afternoon in one of the oldest Jewish cemeteries in the US when I was in Rhode Island.

The pebbles that are left on a headstone are typically explained as a visual affirmation that oskar-shindler-grave-smallsomeone had been there to remember the life. One Rabbi said it was because in ancient days, the method of burial was to place the dead under a pile of stones.

Another Rabbi offered this thought to mourners at a headstone unveiling….” In the past in Israel, a shepherd would use pebbles to count his sheep.” The Rabbi referred to the b’tsror word (in the Hebrew inscription on many headstones “Let his/her soul be bound up in the bonds of life”/”te’hi nafsho/nafsha tsarural b’tsror ha chayim”) as a play on tsror /pebble ( as in Amos 9:9 /KJV=grain).

Leaving a pebble could express our prayer that G-d, like a Shepherd would count and care for the friend or family member.  I like the thought.

headstone-1-smallThe first photo is from a cohen’s headstone and the abbreviation of the above “let his soul…” is at the bottom.




The second headstone, I liked the quote,

headstone-2-smallthough taken out of its’ Biblical setting referring to Saul and Jonathan, – nice for a husband and wife inscription.

The older stones, for ladies usually had either shabbat candles or bread/challah images. (Levites had pitchers)(young people’s markers were cut-off tree trunk – like the Kennedy memorial in Israel).



But I was particularly touched by ‘Sarah’s’ inscription.

“Dearest we still love you, though beneath the sod, may headstone-4-mother-sarah-smallyou always rest in Peace, in the arms of God”



It is my wish each of you are remembered always, and safe in the arms of God.

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