National Association of Chevra Kadisha

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Why do Jews place stones on graves?

By Yekusiel
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There is no mitzvah to visit a grave. The idea that if no one will ever visit the grave, then burial doesn’t matter (often given as motivation for cremation) has no merit. The value of burial is that it is a kindness to the deceased to be buried in the earth.  Whether or not anyone ever visits that grave does not impact its value.

Now that we have that out of the way, it should be noted that it is, in fact, a Jewish custom to visit the grave of a tzaddik, parent, or other relative, particularly on their yahrzeit and before Rosh Hashana. 

While the primary purpose of the visit is to pray on behalf of the living, the visit also shows respect to the deceased. We leave a small stone or pebble on top of the gravestone to allow that sign of respect to remain long after the visit is over.

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