CCAR RESPONSA

American Reform Responsa

109. The Setting of aTombstone

(1979)

QUESTION: Is there a specific time after the funeral when the tombstone should be set? Must one wait twelve months or may this be done sooner?

ANSWER: There is no fixed time period which must elapse before the tombstone can be set. It has become customary among the modern Orthodox Jews to wait twelve months (Chidushei Akiva Eiger to Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De-a 376.4). However, there are many opinions which state that the tombstone can be set as early as the conclusion of the Shiv-a period (Tosafot to Ket. 5a). In fact, it was even possible for a mourner to interrupt the period of mourning to concern himself with the tombstone (Siftei Kohen to Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De-a 375, note 12). In Israel, it is often the practice to erect the tombstone at the end of thirty days of mourning (Sheloshim). Greenwald, after citing all the customs which have been followed in both ancient and modern times, quite properly declared that the tombstone itself was erected to honor the dead. As we feel that we honor our dead more (kibud hamet) by waiting a year, that should be done; it would, however, be within the framework of tradition to erect a stone earlier. Both ways are agreeable with custom and tradition (Greenwald, Kol Bo Al Avelut, p. 370). For guidance on a consecration service for the stone, see Gates of Mitzvah, p. 64. As waiting a year has become a widespread custom among us in America, we should generally wait till a year has elapsed.

Walter Jacob, Chairman

Leonard S. Kravitz

Eugene Lipman

W. Gunther Plaut

Harry A. Roth

Rav A. Soloff

Bernard Zlotowitz

If needed, please consult Abbreviations used in CCAR Responsa.