Hakamat HaMatzevah: An Unveiling Ceremony

An unveiling is not merely the formal presentation of the gravestone or grave marker. It is also a sacred opportunity for a dignified, loving and meaningful mourning experience for family and close friends. Based on the model of creation, this seven-part ritual builds from establishing intentionality to culminating with the participants’ sense of peace at having consecrated a marked, identifiable resting place for their beloved dead.

Hakamat HaMatzevah : The Unveiling of the Monument to the life of _________

PART 1: Establishing our Kavannah the directing of our hearts

Leader: Today, we have gathered to carry out the sacred task of remembering ________.

Reading/Song #1

PART 2: The Cemetery

Leader: In our tradition, we have three names for a cemetery:

Beit HaKevarot: a home for burial
Beit Olam: a home of eternity
Beit HaChaim: a home for the living

These three names represent three ways in which we can understand death. But they are also expressions of three ways in which we can understand life.

If we define life as exclusively a physical experience, then death seems an end and we perceive the cemetery as only a place for burial.

If we define life as a spiritual experience in addition to a physical one, then we do not see death at the end because a soul never dies. We bury the bodies of those we love, but we realize that their souls are eternal.

And if we use the examples of those we love to inspire and affect how we live our own lives, then the cemetery becomes a “home for the living.” Our beloved dead continue to live in a very real way, through our lives.

Reading/Song #2

All recite the 23rd Psalm

PART 3: The marking of time and place: the importance of the Matzevah in our tradition

Leader: It is an ancient Jewish custom to erect a matzevah – which does not mean “gravestone,” “tombstone” or “marker.” The literal translation of matzevah is “monument.” We erect a matzevah in memory and in honor of our beloved dead – a tradition that comes from Jacob, who placed a monument on the grave of his beloved Rachel.
Our purpose in having a matzevah is to recall what is sacred and eternal about ______’s life –

We have gathered to mark this time in the life of _______‘s friends and family and to make this new memory of coming together in ______’s  honor to witness and support one another and to honor________.

Unveiling is a formal presentation and public presentation – the act of beginning a new phase. It also affords us a glimpse of Mystery: to unveil _________‘s matzevah is to reveal and disclose how much we miss __________, what has happened in our own lives since _______‘s death, and to again experience the thinning of the veils between the worlds.

PART 4: Building the matzevah of  our memories

Reading/Song #3

Leader: I invite you to share memories of ___________.

PART 5: The Unveiling & Dedication of the matzevah

(Ask a family member to remove the cover.)

Read and explain the inscription.

Leader: We have come together to lovingly dedicate this matzevah to the blessed memory of ______.
We realize that ______’s physical remains lie in this plot of ground but that _______ lives on in every heart that  ______’s life touched.
Holy One of Blessings, we are grateful for the years we were privileged to share with ______– years when ______ taught us so very much by ____ example.
Even though ______ has left us physically, we know that  ____ will never leave our hearts: _____’s memory will endure as an abiding blessing.

Chant El Maley Rakhamim
PART 6 : Marking the matzevah with the physical sign of presence

(Explain the custom of leaving stones and distribute the stones. Each person places a stone on the grave.)

All Join together to recite Kadish Yatom.

Leader: Zichrono L’vracha/ Zichronah L’vracha

May _________‘s memory be for an enduring blessing.

PART 7: Conclusion – Holding on to love and to memory

Reading/Song #4

Leader: Adonai Natan. Adonai Lakach. Yehi shem Adonai M’vorach.

The Holy One gives. The Holy One takes.
Blessed be the name of the Holy One.

And we say together: Amen.

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