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 someone 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.
The 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,
though 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 you 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.