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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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Bonnie July 19, 2017

How much would be appropriate to give a rabbi to do an unveiling? Reply

Malkie Janowski for June 6, 2017

In Hebrew this is called the Hakamat Hamatzeiva - erecting the monument. Reply

Ilana Canada June 4, 2017

Is there a common Yiddish or Hebrew word that refers to an unveiling? Reply Staff via August 23, 2016

To Anonymous You can keep it, reuse or give to someone else. Reply

joe new hyde park August 22, 2016

What do you do with the unveiling cloth after the unveiling? Reply

Yehuda Shurpin for 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. Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn 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? Reply

Menachem Posner Chicago 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. Reply

Anonymous 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 . Reply

Eliezer Zalmanov for 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. Reply

Gary Fruchtman Toledo, OH 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? Reply

Chani Benjaminson, July 18, 2010

Unveiling My condolences on your loss. You can find the traditional prayers that are said at an unveiling, as well as the procedure, here. Reply

Tania Benoni, South Africa July 16, 2010

unveiling ceremony Is there any special requirements of the family or anything we need to do? Reply

carole Melbourne, vic.australia April 22, 2009

unveiling I learn a great deal using the opportunity of this web site....thankyou Reply

Chani Benjaminson, April 23, 2008

Unveiling 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. Reply

steve blake los angeles, ca 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. Reply

Joy Krauthammer Northridge, CA, USA 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. Reply

Introduction: Dealing with Death; The Jewish Approach
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