Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why Don't We Put Flowers on a Grave?

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Question of the Week:


I am going to visit my grandmother's grave, and was planning to buy a bunch of her favourite flowers. But I have noticed that Jewish graves don't have bouquets, only stones laid on them. Is there anything wrong with placing flowers on a grave?


The custom to place a stone on a grave is an ancient one. By doing so we are symbolically adding to the gravestone, building up the monument that honours the departed. Placing flowers on a grave is not our custom.

Flowers wither and die. Stones remain unchanged. 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 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 to the world, these are eternal stones that never die.

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

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss


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