“You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself” (Leviticus 19:18)
Walking through a traditional Jewish cemetery reveals scores of stones that have been placed upon the headstones and graves of the deceased.
But why are these stones on Jewish graves and who put them there?
The stones found on Jewish grave markers signify that someone came to visit the grave and is intended as a sign of respect and honor for the deceased. When a visitor comes to pay respects to their loved one or friend, the visitor simply puts a stone on the applicable headstone or grave, as appropriate.
Stones have special meaning in Judaism and are considered the appropriate memorial for those who have died.
Early in the Torah, Abraham takes his son to be sacrificed, on a stone. This ancient stone has a special name even hashityah, the foundation stone of the world.
In Jerusalem, the Western Wall is just a pile of stone and in the Bible, an altar was described as having been built from stone.
Stones are thought to be simple, but strong and enduring. Many Jews regard stones as a symbol of potency, perseverance, and religious and family ties.
Over the centuries, the practice of leaving stones on Jewish graves has been enshrined as a tradition that Jews uniformly follow.