Why are childrens' tombstones smaller than those of adults?

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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it does not mention Judaism or give any indication that either the question or the answer have to do with Judaism. – mevaqesh Jul 18 '16 at 2:52

I was always under the impression that it was because the tombstones were placed primarily in order to warn Kohanim of where the graves were, and thus they were laid flat over the grave to cover it(see Mishnah Oholot 15:8 and 15:9 with surrounding commentaries). Since children's graves are by nature smaller, the stones laid upon them to cover them would by nature be smaller as well, especially as the above mishnah states the Ziyyun did convey tumah, so it would stand to reason that one would not want it to be any larger than necessary. The Jewish Encyclopedia also has a fair decent article on the development of graves through history.

  • I think the question was focusing on the headstone, which should not really be connected to the size of the grave. You are probably thinking about tombstones that lie flat on the grave. – Dave Aug 10 '10 at 6:18
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    He did say tombstones, and for that matter, headstones(or footstones if you are british) really are a fairly new phenomenon, and are primarily reserved for anglo cultures(the US and the UK). Throughout Israel and Europe the Ziyyun is still the primary form of tombstone. Non-anglo practice somewhat aside, modern tradition evolved from past tradition. Reduction in size of a child's headstone is solely a Jewish custom, and has no foundation in halakha, aside from its derivative source of being a ziyyun. – Rabbi Michael Tzadok Aug 10 '10 at 12:51

Maybe to intensify the grief ("agmas nefesh" - see Berachos 5b with Rashi ד"ה ביר regarding R' Yochanan's practice to carry with him a bone of the tenth son he buried).

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