Dear Rabbi,

I am going to visit my grandmother's grave and was planning to buy a bunch of her favorite flowers. But I have noticed that Jewish graves are usually flowerless. Is there anything wrong with placing a nice bouquet on her grave?


Placing flowers on a grave is not a Jewish tradition. For some explanations, please see Flowers, Jews & Gravesites. But I would like to offer a personal reflection of why I would not place flowers on the graves of my loved ones.

While flowers are a beautiful gift to the living, they mean nothing to the dead. In death, the body which is ephemeral and temporary is gone, and all that remains is that eternal part of the person, their soul. The body, like a flower, blossoms and then fades away, but the soul, like a solid stone, lives on forever.

In the world of truth, the place we all go to after life on earth, what counts is the lasting impact we had on the world. It is the achievements of the soul, not of the body, that remain beyond the grave. The money we make, the holidays we go on, the food we eat and the games we play – these are all flowers that die along with us. But the good deeds we do, the love we show to others, the light we bring into the world, these are eternal.

If you want to honor your grandmother, take the money you would have spent on flowers and give it to charity in her memory. Then take a modest stone that costs you nothing and place it on her grave, to tell her that though she is gone, the impact she had on you is everlasting.