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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 (14)
August 23, 2016
To Anonymous
You can keep it, reuse or give to someone else. Staff
August 22, 2016
What do you do with the unveiling cloth after the unveiling?
new hyde park
February 12, 2016
Re: Unveiling in a leap year
There are different opinions in general about when one should have the unveiling. some hold to do it as soon after shiva as possible, some on the sheloshim, and yet others wait for after 12 months or the first yartzet. As such, one needs to consult with their own Rabbi as to which custom they should follow.

The Chabad custom is to erect the tombstone as soon as possible. Ideally on the very day that the mourners "get up" from the Shivah.
Yehuda Shurpin for
January 29, 2016
Unveiling in a leap year
What are the requirements of timing of an unveiling in a leap year? Should the unveiling still take place within 12 Hebrew months of the death or is it before the yahrtzeit which is actually 13 Hebrew months from the date of death?
January 11, 2016
To Anonymous
I know of no reason why you should not have a second unveiling ceremony for the newly inscribed portion of the stone. Prayers, Torah study, inspiration and getting together to honor a beloved parent sounds like a wonderful thing to do.
Menachem Posner
January 10, 2016
My mother passed away in March; her name was added to the headstone already erected for my father who passed away several years ago. Do we do an unveiling ceremony for my mother as her name was added to headstone ? Someone told my sister a second unveiling is not done , but the one year anniversary is coming up soon and I think we should have vidit and have the appropriate ceremony .
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
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