Within the first year after the passing of a loved one, mourners and their family gather at the gravesite for a ceremony called the unveiling, the placing of the tombstone. At this event, a grave marker is put into place and the monument is formally dedicated. There are a variety of specific customs that revolve around the gravesite to honor the person who is now deceased. During this ceremony, it is not necessary for rabbis or cantors to be involved. It is a spiritual time for the family to comfort each other and remember their loved one.
The ceremony typically has a certain order of events. First, there are readings from the book of Psalms; other prayers may be recited as well. Next, there is a eulogy from either the rabbi or a family member. ;At that point, the Moleh, or Memorial Prayer, takes place. Finally, the Kaddish is recited, and the cloth or veil that has covered the headstone is removed. While the events cited above are typical, the unveiling can include additional sections to make this a personal reflection of the person whom has passed way.
When Does the Unveiling Take Place?
The ceremony can take place anytime between the end of shiva and the Yahrzeit. However, it should be held sometime during the first year after someone has died. Some people hold it close to the Sheloshim, which is the 30th day after the person died.
It is usually planned for a time when close family can attend. However, there are days that are generally not religiously appropriate for visiting the cemetery, such as scheduling the unveiling on days of celebration and festive periods or holidays such as Rosh Chodesh or Sukkot, which tend to take place in the fall or spring.
It is important to note that the actual date set for the unveiling is flexible, and often the family selects a time that fits best with personal circumstances.
Who Attends the Unveiling?
These gatherings are generally smaller and more intimate than funerals. However, the family members are typically welcome to invite the attendees who they feel will provide the level of support and comfort that they seek. There is no strict regulation on who can attend.
Who Officiates the Proceedings?
Traditionally, rabbis officiate these proceedings. However, according to religious law, it isn’t necessary for a rabbi to be involved. The family can personally designate who will conduct the actual unveiling, as a rabbi is not necessary and family member may wish to lead the ceremony. If a rabbi is selected, it is often one who knew the person who passed away.
What Is the Significance of the Cloth Covering the Headstone?
This part of the ceremony is meant to create a moment in which the monument is unveiled in front of family almost as though it was just constructed. This hearkens back to days when the family members actually erected a monument themselves.
Traditionally, a minyan is required in order to recite the Mourner’s Kaddish. This means at least 10 adults are to be present for this to take place. In certain circumstances it may not be possible to have a minyan, but the unveiling can still take place.
Placing Stones on the Monument
Another custom that is frequently part of the unveiling is placing stones or pebbles on the monument. This custom has many origins and interpretations, but in its simplest explanation, it is a clear representation and reminder that the family was at the gravesite. Additional explanations about stones at the gravesite can be found here >>
It is recommended to send cards to friends and family members you wish to attend a few weeks before the unveiling takes place.