Why Do We Place Stones At A Grave?

The Symbol of the Stone at the Grave

Have you ever wondered why Jews leave stones at the graves of their loved ones? Our Jewish faith teaches us to respect, mourn, remember, and care for the dead. Leaving stones at your loved one’s grave is a way of doing just that, for long after they have left this world.

StonesFrom the moment someone passes away, we go to great lengths to care for them. Not only in memory, by planning a respectful funeral that reflects the kind of life they lived, but also physically – as some opt for the ritual ceremony of Taharah (please see our previous blog post here) – and spiritually, by having a Shomer sit with them, ensuring they are never left alone. Visiting a loved one’s grave offers you time to reflect, meditate, and remember them. Leaving stones there commemorates those you’ve lost, as well as your visits.

So, why do we leave stones rather than flowers that you may see in a secular cemetery? There are two reasons for this. The first one being that the stone symbolizes permanence. We wish for our loved one’s soul to live eternally in the world to come. Flowers may be beautiful, but they do not last – their beauty fades, and petals fall – while a stone remains sturdy even against the elements. The second reason being that in life, flowers symbolize luxury, a prize or even status. Judaism tells us that in death, like in birth, we are all equal. We are all rocks against the elements to stand the test of time.

 

Columbia Life Happens Series – September 2016

LifeHappensLogo

ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THE FUTURE?

It can be hard to discuss what happens when you or a family member becomes ill or passes away. But taking time to explore and make decisions about these issues now will make it easier on your loved ones. Facing these difficult issues can provide everyone with peace of mind for years to come.

LifeBridge Health, Jewish Community Services, the Jewish Federation of Howard County and Sol Levinson & Bros. want to make the hard conversations about aging and planning for the future easier for you. Join us for Life Happens, a free series of talks from experts who help navigate others through these topics.

Mark your calendar for these upcoming events:

All SessionsAttendance is free and open to the community. To register for any or all of these Life Happens sessions, go to www.lifebridgehealth.org/communityevents, or call 410-601-WELL (9355).

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We Remember Them: Finding Hope and Meaning After Loss

Gilchrist Grief Services, Jewish Community Services and Sol Levinson & Bros, Inc. Funeral Home Present a Community Seminar:

 

We Remember Them:

Finding Hope and Meaning After Loss

ComfortingGrieving the death of a loved one is a complex journey; it is a unique process for every individual.

This seminar will provide attendees an opportunity to learn new coping skills, to better understand their feelings, and come away with a renewed sense of hope and meaning.

 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

6:30 P.M. – 8:30 P.M.

Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc. Funeral Home

8900 Reisterstown Road

Baltimore, MD  21208

 

Program

6:30 – 6:45   Welcome

6:45 – 7:15   Creating New Purpose: Finding Hope and Meaning

7:15 – 7:25   Break and Refreshments

7:25 – 8:15   Breakout Sessions led by Gilchrist Grief Services and Jewish Community Services Bereavement Clinicians

8:15 – 8:30   We Remember Them presented by Rabbi Dana Saroken, Beth El Congregation

 

Free and Open to the Community. To reserve a space please register by September 15, 2016

Call: 443-849-8251 or email gs_grief@gilchristservices.org

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Life Happens Series in Columbia

Life Happens

ARE YOU PREPARED FOR THE FUTURE?
It can be hard to discuss what happens when you or a family member needs skilled nursing care or passes away. But taking time to explore and make decisions about these issues now will make it easier on your loved ones. Facing these difficult issues can provide everyone with peace of mind for years to come.

LifeBridge Health, Jewish Community Services, the Jewish Federation of Howard County and Sol Levinson & Bros. want to make the hard conversations about aging and planning for the future easier for you. Join us in Columbia this September for Life Happens, a free series of talks from experts who help navigate others through these topics.

Mark your calendar for these upcoming events. Attendance is free and open to the community. To register for any or all of these Life Happens sessions, go to www.lifebridgehealth.org/communityevents, or call 410-601-WELL (9355).

  • The Greatest Gift: Discussing and Planning for Future Financial, Medical and End-of Life Matters with Loved Ones. Get the much sought-after “Binder.” On Tues., Sept. 6, from 7 – 8:30 p.m. at Beth Shalom, 8070 Harriet Tubman Lane, Columbia, MD 21044
  • Jewish Perspecitves on Aging and End of Life. On Tues., Sept. 13, from 7 – 8:30 p.m. at Vantage House, 5400 Vantage Point Road, Columbia, MD 21044
  • Healthy Living for a Healthy Future. On Tues., Sept. 20, from 7 – 8:30 p.m. at the Jewish Federation of Howard County, 10630 Little Patuxent Parkway, Ste. 400, Columbia, MD 21044
  • The Jewish Funeral: Traditions and Options. On Tues., Sept. 27, from 7 – 8:30 p.m. at Sol Levinson & Bros. Funeral Services P.A., 5560 Sterrett Place, Ste. 204, Columbia, MD 21044

Jewish Mourning Rituals

Over the last several weeks, we have posted this series of videos regarding Jewish mourning rituals to our Facebook page. If you haven’t done so already, take a look! They are very informative and original. If you have questions regarding Jewish funerals or mourning practices, please contact us, we are always here to help!

 

Honoring a Memory by Planting Trees

In the Jewish faith, there are many ways to celebrate, honor and commemorate the life of a loved one and perpetuate their legacy for future generations. Planting a tree in their memory is a time-honored tradition that is symbolic and heartfelt, and a very common and appropriate way to show your support. Tree planting ceremonies may help a mourner fill a void felt after the funeral and shiva period have ended. Alternatively, it is very common to make a donation to a tree-planting organization such as Jewish National Fund, in someone’s memory.

Traditionally, a fruit tree is planted because it symbolizes continual nourishment by the fruit it bears. A story is told of a man named Honi, who encountered another man planting a carob tree. “How long will it take to bear fruit?” he inquired. “About 70 years,” the man replied. “So you think you will live long enough to taste its fruits?” The man explained, “I have found ready-grown carob trees in the world. As my forefathers planted them for me, so I plant for my children.”

This is a great way to teach younger generations about the circle of life and the beliefs we hold regarding life and death in the Jewish faith. The life cycle is not only about raising families and participating in your community, but teaching the reasons why we take care of one another, and providing for future generations as was done for us.

Many families are thankful for the visual reminder of how their loved one made a positive mark on the community, and it is uplifting to see a beautiful tree adorn the community in a loved one’s name. It also gives a place to visit, when perhaps the memories associated with visiting the cemetery may be too painful.

The options available to those interested in planting a memorial tree are many. While it is common to plant a tree in the yard of the mourning family, there are many places, such as a park, synagogue or school where family members and friends could remember and reflect on this symbol of a life well lived. The family’s rabbi may even conduct a small service.

 

FAQ – Who Gets Funeral or Shiva Thank-you Notes?

One question we are often asked is who should formally be thanked after a funeral. It is important to note that the answer to this, as with most other things in Jewish tradition, often varies.

It is most common to write thank-you notes for donations or contributions that were made in a person’s memory, or to people who may have sent food to the family. It is also common to thank anyone who was exceptionally helpful in organizing shiva, etc. It is not expected that you should write a note to thank every person who attended the funeral.

However, in the more observant community it is NOT expected that thank-you notes be written, as that community views helping with shiva or making contributions in someone’s memory something that is a mitzvah – a commandment, not just a good deed – and, therefore, does not require thanks. Another part of the reasoning is they feel that grieving families should do just that – focus on their grief and not have to spend their time obligated to the duty of writing thank-you notes.

Life Happens – first educational series

LifeHappensLogoWe have just completed a very successful first-time educational series, in partnership with LifeBridge Health, the JCC of Greater Baltimore, and Jewish Community Services. Thank you to all the speakers and participants.

Over the course of six weeks, we covered the following topics:

  • The Greatest Gift: Discussing and Planning for Future Financial, Medical and End-of-Life Matters with Loved Ones
  • Estates and Eldercare: Planning and Resources
  • Health Expectations and Challenges Facing Baby Boomers
  • Navigating the System: Aging in Place, Independent and Assisted Living, Households and Nursing Homes
  • Palliative and Hospice Care: Difficult Conversations, Valuable Resources
  • The Jewish Funeral: Traditions, Options and Funeral Home Tour

Each presentation was very well attended and we received a lot of excellent feedback. As we review the series and plan for future events, is there a topic you would like us to consider? Please comment here, send an email to feedback@sollevinson.com, or call Matt Levinson or Eliza Feller at 410-653-8900

Seventeenth Annual Irvin B. Levinson Memorial Lecture Series on Death, Dying and Bereavement

Wednesday

May 20, 2015

6:00 PM – 9:15 PM

Sol Levinson & Bros., Inc.
8900 Reisterstown Road
Pikesville, MD 21208

Featured Speakers:

Rabbi Dr. Tzvi Hersh Weinreb – “Trauma and Loss as Opportunities for Psychological Growth”

William C. (Bill) Dietrich – “Companioning the Dying: Opening Fully to Living”

Limited Seating.  Doors open at 5:15pm on a first come, first served basis.  No registration required and no reservations can be taken.

Funeral directors, psychologists and social workers attending the program may earn 3 CEUs (category A or 1).

Funeral Personalization

HoldingHandsFuneral personalization can mean a lot of different things, but the primary goal of personalization is that the funeral more fully reflect the life of the person being honored. Whether you are looking for traditional or non-traditional funeral arrangements, there are many ways to honor special wishes. Read here for a list of several ways in which a funeral or shiva home can incorporate options such as music, photographs, etcetera.

 Levinson’s is here to answer your questions about these and other options, and to make everything run smoothly. Make sure your funeral director knows in advance if you would like to include any of these elements, so we can be completely prepared upon your arrival for the service. If you have special requests for your own funeral, you may sit down with us to plan ahead and ensure we have the information in our records. It is also very important to ensure your family is aware of and comfortable with your wishes.

 Also, not all of these things are strictly in keeping with traditional Jewish funerals. Be sure your clergy is aware of any personalized aspects of your funeral so they may tailor their remarks appropriately to honor your loved one in the way you wish them to be remembered.

One thing many of our families find meaningful is to place photographs, notes and drawings (especially by younger family members) into the casket. Funerals sometimes feature special readings, or favorite music playing while other family and friends arrive prior to the service. Levinson’s also provides the option of a video recording of the service via discrete and unobtrusive cameras in the ceilings of the chapels. Family and friends who are out of town or otherwise physically unable to attend may then feel they are a part of the service even if they cannot attend. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to let us know. If you have your own suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.