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Can we have the unveiling of my mother's headstone on Yom Kippur?

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Rabbi Goldwasser

Rabbi Jeffrey Wolfson Goldwasser

Question: Can we have the unveiling of my mother's headstone on Yom Kippur?

Dear Rabbi Goldwasser,
Can my family and I have the unveiling of my mother's headstone on Yom Kippur?
Thank you, Alisa

Answer: Dear Alisa,

Thank you for your question. You ask if it is appropriate to have an unveiling for your mother's headstone on Yom Kippur.

The answer to your question from the standpoint of traditional Jewish law is that one should not visit a cemetery on Shabbat or the festivals. (I wrote about this in an answer to another question. You can read it at this link.) Yom Kippur is intended to be a complete day of prayer in the synagogue. For this reason, the question of visiting a cemetery on Yom Kippur would never even arise in traditional observance.

Liberal Jews are able to be more flexible in their interpretation of Jewish tradition, especially in cases where there is a conflict between different sacred values. Certainly, honoring parents and remembering the dead is considered a sacred value in Judaism. You may have chosen Yom Kippur as the date for your mother's unveiling because it is a time of sacred gathering for your family. However, you should, at least, make the choice with an awareness of the traditional objection.

There is a tradition of visiting the graves of loved-ones on the eve of Yom Kippur. Perhaps that would be a better time for you to honor your mother's memory without disregarding Jewish tradition.

I hope that this is helpful to you.

G'mar chatimah tovah.
May you be inscribed for a good year.

Rabbi Jeffrey W. Goldwasser
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