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Visiting the Gravesite

Visiting the Gravesite


Visiting the gravesite expresses respect for the departed, shows that their memory has not been forgotten, and reinforces one's connection to them.

It is considered a great merit to pray at the gravesite of a loved one and that of a great Torah sage, for we are taught that a portion of the soul is always present at the gravesite.

Throughout Jewish history, in times of need, trouble or distress, people would go to a Jewish cemetery and pray to G‑d, invoking the merits of the deceased and requesting that they intercede in the Heavens, and carry the prayers to G‑d.

One also visits the gravesite to pray for the elevation of the departed soul.

It is also customary to visit on days when prayer is especially appropriate. This includes the Shloshim (thirtieth day from burial), on every Yartzeit (anniversary of passing), and on the days leading into Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Some also visit on the day before Rosh Chodesh (start of the new Hebrew month), and on the fifteenth day of each month.

Days on which it is customary not to visit a gravesite include Shabbat, Jewish holidays, Rosh Chodesh, and the intermediate days of Sukkot and Passover (Chol Ha-moed)

It is customary to limit visits to, and prayers at, a new grave for the first twelve months, except for erecting the tombstone and on the Shloshim (thirtieth day from burial). This is because during this period the soul is undergoing its judgment, and one does not desire to add any additional "burdens" to the tribulations of the soul.

• One who has not been to a Jewish cemetery for thirty days recites a special blessing upon arrival.

• Some people recite Psalms, including Psalm 91, and some add Psalms 33, 16, 17, 72, 104, and 130. Some also recite verses from Psalm 119 that begin with the letters of the Hebrew name of the deceased, and the word נשמה (Heb. soul).

• Some recite additional prayers and supplications.

• Some have the custom to place a pebble or stone on the tombstone, showing that the grave has been visited.

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Yehuda Shurpin for March 15, 2016

Rabbi Moshe Isserlis in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 4:18 writes about washing your hands "after walking among the dead." While this obviously includes a cemetery, it isn't limited to one. Reply

Anonymous Israel March 15, 2016

Do you have a source regarding washing hands after being at a mass grave in Poland-Ukraine where the graves are not necessarily in a cemetery? Reply Staff February 20, 2014

Certainly! It is a special day for your father's soul. Reply

Anonymous February 19, 2014

Is it appropriate to visit a grave on the deceased's 95th Birthday? I don't go on my family's A"H Birthdays, but this one feels special - today would have been my dear Father's OBM 95th B'day. Reply

Mrs. Chana Benjaminson December 1, 2013

There is dispute regarding the propriety of visiting at certain dates, such as Chanukah Passover, and other days on which the penitential prayers (tachanun) are not recited. Consequently, these days should be avoided for visitation and unveiling if at all possible. If for some reason, whether it is because members of the family must leave town, or will be visiting from out-of-town at certain other times, it is ok to visit. Reply

Miriam Ricket Mentor November 30, 2013

is it ok to visit grave site during Hanukkah? Reply Staff August 18, 2013

Here is the text of the blessing, you can also find it at this link

Baruch ata adonai Elo-kenu melech ha-olam asher yatzar etchem badin, v'dan v'chilkail etchem badin, v'hemit etchem badin, v'yode-ah mispar koolchem badin, v'atid l'ha-chazir ul-ha-chayot etchem badin. Baruch ate adonai-m'chayeh hemetim.

"Praised be the Eternal, our God, the Ruler of the Universe who created you in judgment, who maintained and sustained you in judgment, and brought death upon you in judgment; who knows the deeds of everyone of you in judgment, and who will hereafter restore you to life in judgment. Praised be the Eternal who will restore life to the dead." Reply

Anonymous Alexandria, VA August 16, 2013

What is the special blessing for not visiting for 30 days? Reply

Menachem Posner for June 9, 2010

You should visit the resting places of any relatives whom you hold dear. People make a special point of visiting immediate family such as parents, grandparents and siblings. However, if there is another relative whom you feel a special connection to, it is more than appropriate to visit him/her as well. Reply

Anonymous Lafayette, ga/usa June 8, 2010

Does this apply to all relatives or specific persons? I am in the process of seeking knowledge, and do not know these customs. Reply

Menachem Posner for June 4, 2008

After visiting a cemetery, we wash our hands in the prescribed manner for the morning hand-washing -- pouring water from a vessel three times over each hand in alternating order.

When coming from a funeral, it is customary to wash in the above mentioned manner before entering one's home (if possible). It is also customary not to dry one's hands afterward.

Another post-funeral custom is to uproot some tufts of grass from the cemetery (some say three) and toss it behind over the shoulder. Reply

Baila June 3, 2008

Are there any particular customs to follow when one is leaving the cemetary after visiting the grave of a loved one? Reply

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