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The Unveiling

The Unveiling


The service of commemoration or unveiling is a formal dedication of the monument. It is customary to hold the unveiling within the first year after death. It should be held at anytime between the end of shiva and the yahrzeit.

Unveilings are held on those days when grave visitations may be made, as outlined in the previous chapter. They are held in all weather and, in our day, precisely on time. With the shortage of available rabbis, and the large number of unveilings concentrated in the spring or fall, it is clearly advisable to call the rabbi six or seven weeks in advance, and to set the date after consulting with him.

The unveiling is the formal removal of a veil, a cloth, or handkerchief draped over the stone. It symbolizes the erection of the tombstone. The unveiling may be executed during the service by anyone the family designates.

The service consists of the recitation of several Psalms, the eulogy, the removal of the veil, the malei rachamim, and Kaddish. For purposes of reciting the Kaddish, a minyan is required. The mourners can be counted as part of the minyan. If no minyan is available, the unveiling may be held, but the Kaddish may not be recited.

The rabbi will frequently suggest placing pebbles on the monument. This custom probably serves as a reminder of the family's presence. Also, it may hark back to biblical days when the monument was a heap of stones. Often, the elements or roving vandals dispersed them, and so visitors placed other additional stones to assure that the grave was marked.

It is advisable, if the rabbi was not personally acquainted with the deceased, to outline, before the service, his life and goals. If the family is enthusiastic in its admiration, rather than bored and indifferent, the eulogy will reflect this sincerity and devotion.

Unveiling cards are usually sent to friends and family two or three weeks in advance of the date. One should be sent to the rabbi as well. Care should be taken to record the precise location of the grave, and specific and clear instructions on how to reach the cemetery and the gravesite.

Eating and drinking on the cemetery are in poor taste. They desecrate the cemetery, and reflect shame upon the deceased. In previous ages a snack may have been required because of the long trip a cemetery visit may have required. Or, perhaps, the reason is that in raising the glass of wine, we say l'chayim, "for life," implying "not for death." Today drinking is associated with socials and bars, and the spirit of levity usually prevails. This custom should be discouraged.

The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning by Rabbi Maurice Lamm. To purchase the book click here.
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Discussion (8)
October 26, 2015
Re: Unveiling
The "unveiling" ceremony is not as important as having the stone installed before the year is up. So if the family can't make it before, then just have the stone installed on time, and whenever it works out for everyone else to be there, they can come together.
Eliezer Zalmanov
October 22, 2015
Our mother passed away on February 1st, 2015. We are having difficulty getting the family in town before the 1 year anniversary AND I'm told that it is preferred not to do an unveiling in the winter when weather could cause an issue. I understand that it's "preferable" to do an unveiling within the first year, but is that custom or command? In other words, will we be wrong to do this in Spring?
Gary Fruchtman
Toledo, OH
July 18, 2010
My condolences on your loss. You can find the traditional prayers that are said at an unveiling, as well as the procedure, here.
Chani Benjaminson,
July 16, 2010
unveiling ceremony
Is there any special requirements of the family or anything we need to do?
Benoni, South Africa
April 22, 2009
I learn a great deal using the opportunity of this web site....thankyou
Melbourne, vic.australia
April 23, 2008
My condolences on your loss...may you be comforted amongst the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem. Click here to find all the prayers and the procedure for an unveiling.
Chani Benjaminson,
April 16, 2008
unveiling ceremony
I am doing(layman leader) a informal unveiling for my Sister.
I would like to know what specific psalms and prayers I do I read and what is the reading order of the prayers and psalms in the ceromony.
steve blake
los angeles, ca
April 16, 2007
Unveiling Dedication, Hakamat Matzeivah
Rabbi Maurice Lamm writes here and in his informative book, The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning, "For purposes of reciting the Kaddish, a minyan is required. In the minyan are included all adults present. "

I want to clarify that according to Orthodoxy, and Rabbi Lamm, that only males, not "all adults" are included,

Rabbi Lamm's book was helpful to me through the mourning process since my husband, Marcel, z'l died last year, as well as now as I prepare my husband's meaningful Unveiling Dedication this next week.
Joy Krauthammer
Northridge, CA, USA