The matzeivah is a stone monument that we erect at the grave of a loved one, to formally and permanently mark the site of the grave. Jewish tradition prescribes the placement of a monument on the grave of a loved one as a sign of love and respect, as part of the mitzvah of honoring and remembering the deceased, a religious obligation.
Traditionally, Jews have always made sure that the monuments of their loved ones include two basic pieces of information:
The deceased’s Hebrew name (Here lies Ploni the son/daughter of Almoni), so that the name will always be remembered.
The Hebrew date of death, so that future generations will always know when the Yahrzeit is.
In America, the usual custom is to include the English name, English dates of birth and death, and typically a short epitaph. At the bottom of the Memorial, it is traditional to include the inscription:
Translation: “May his/her/their soul(s) be bound up in the bond of life.”
Listed below are some common symbols used on monuments
|Magen David - Star of David||The universal symbol for “Jewish,” and serves as a means of identification and connection with the Jewish People.|
|Two hands with thumbs and forefingers touching||For a man who is a Kohayn, we traditionally put the image of the two hands with thumbs and forefingers touching, symbolic of the Priestly Benediction with which the Kohanim are commanded to bless the Jewish People.|
|Water pitcher and bowl||For a Levi, the image of a water pitcher and bowl, symbolizing their role in assisting the Kohanim.|
|Lion||The Lion of Judah is a symbol of strength and courage, which together with the image of the Ten Commandments eventually became a common figure in synagogue architecture, frequently carved over the Ark where the Torah is held.|
|Menorah, or Sabbath candlesticks||The most frequently used symbol for a woman is the Menorah, or Sabbath candlesticks, reflecting her traditional role as the mainstay of the Jewish home.|
|Holocaust Survivor||This symbol is often used to indicate a person’s status as a survivor of the Holocaust.|
In addition to these, are also symbols used for members of fraternal organizations and professions. Our monument specialists will be happy to advise you on the most appropriate and meaningful symbols to commemorate your loved one.
According to Jewish custom, the first marriage generally is the most significant one, especially if there were children from this marriage. If a double stone is erected and a plot is reserved for the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse would generally be buried next to their first husband or wife, if that is his or her expressed wish. According to Biblical precedent, Jacob had four wives, but was buried next to Leah, his first wife.