|Ask Rabbi Lerner|
Why do Jews put pebbles or rocks on graves (like in the movie Schindler's List)?
It is currently a Jewish custom to put a pebble on the headstone when one visits a grave to mark that you have been there and that you respect the one who has passed on.
It is difficult to know exactly when and why the custom originated
and whether it is strictly Jewish. I personally suspect that this custom arose
out of the time (possible Roman or earlier) when people - not all Jews - would
weigh down the grave or seal the tomb with a stone in order to: (1) prevent anyone
including animals from harming the body and (2) prevent an evil spirit from escaping
out to harm us.
Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner
Foundation for Family Education (FFFE)