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The Unveiling
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The Unveiling

The unveiling (hakamat ha-matzeivah) is a religious ceremony marking the formal setting of a loved one’s monument at the cemetery. This fulfills the religious obligation to place a marker at the grave of a loved one.

When should the unveiling take place?

There is no “set” time for when an unveiling should take place, however, there are some customary times that families may wish to have one. Some hold the unveiling on, or close to, “sheloshim”, which is the thirtieth day after the death. It is the completion of the mourning period for all, except a parent, as is customary in Israel.

The general custom for most Americans is to have the unveiling around the eleventh Hebrew month, which is the completion of Kaddish, or the twelfth Hebrew month, which is the completion of the mourning period for a parent.

Since Jewish tradition does not prescribe a specific time, an unveiling can be held at a time that is most convenient for the family. When scheduling an unveiling, one should consider the weather, vacation periods, family celebrations, and appropriate gathering times. When setting a date, always consult with your officiating Rabbi to confirm their availability and if the desired date is appropriate for an unveiling according to the Jewish calendar.

Man Reading Kaddish

Are there periods when unveilings are not appropriate?

Unveilings are solemn occasions, marked by the recitation of memorial prayers and eulogies. As such, they generally not held when they would conflict with Jewish holidays, Rosh Chodesh (the new moon), the Hebrew month of Nisan, and certain other dates. Unveilings are not held on these dates because the traditional petitionary prayers and memorial prayers are not recited in the synagogue during this time.

Always consult with your Rabbi before deciding on a date for the unveiling.

How is an unveiling ceremony conducted?

The immediate family should arrive at the gravesite ahead of the scheduled unveiling time and make sure the cloth provided to you covers the monument. Family and friends will arrive and gather around the grave at the time of the unveiling. The Rabbi begins with readings from the book of Psalms and the recitation of prayers, followed by a eulogy. Some family members may also wish to speak at the unveiling. Upon the conclusion of their service, the Rabbi will recite the traditional memorial prayer, the “Moleh”, this is followed by the Kaddish, if there is a minyan present. The Rabbi will then direct the family to remove the covering from the monument.

American Flag and Cemetery

What is the significance of the unveiling cloth over the monument?

In early times, the family physically erected the monument to their loved ones. In present society, professionals construct the monument and the families select a day to unveil it to their friends and families. Thus, it became customary to use the cloth to “unveil” the monument as if the family was erecting it anew.

Sinai Memorials will provide your family with a complimentary unveiling cloth.

Is it necessary for a Rabbi to officiate at the unveiling?

While not required by religious law, it is highly recommended that a Rabbi officiate, since Rabbis are religious professional with knowledge of the rituals, appropriate prayers, and the Jewish calendar. A Rabbi can also provide guidance and advice during a very stressful time as well as ensure that the ceremony to honor the deceased is both appropriate and meaningful. Families may find it more comforting to choose a Rabbi who knows the family or was personally acquainted with the deceased.

If your family is unaffiliated with a synagogue and would like a formal service with a Rabbi, Sinai Memorials will assist you.

Is a minyan necessary at an unveiling?

A minyan is a quorum of ten men, or ten men and women in some synagogues, over the age of 13, required for traditional Jewish public worship. For most of the rituals and prayers recited at an unveiling, it is not necessary for a minyan to be present. However, Jewish law requires the presence of a minyan to recite the Kaddish. Since an unveiling is a time when it is most appropriate to say Kaddish, every effort should be made to assure the presence of a minyan.

When and how do we notify family and friends of the unveiling date?

Family and friends should be notified approximately two to four weeks before the unveiling. Sinai Memorials can provide you with complementary printed information to send out that include the unveiling details, such as the date, time and location.

The unveiling is a religious ceremony marking the formal setting of a loved one’s monument at the cemetery.
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