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Often, the family of the deceased will have an unveiling service for the presentation of the matzevah.* What is the origin of this custom?

*Source: Goldin, Hyman. Hamadrikh. Hebrew Publishing Company: New York City, 1939. Print.

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    +1, good question. Might be a better question if you edited to explain what exactly an unveiling ceremony entails (I think I know what you're talking about, but others might not). – Shokhet Oct 8 '14 at 0:22
  • @Shokhet, the problem is I won't have a chance to look at my madrikh until yom tov and I'm not sure what it entails in any case (maybe something to do with being a Kohen?) – Noach MiFrankfurt Oct 8 '14 at 1:32
  • Did you get a chance to look at you madrikh yet? – Shokhet Aug 6 '15 at 14:43
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Nitei Gavriel - Aveilus 2 67:3 says that after searching in all the Sefarim of many different Kehilos, Chevra Kadishas, and Aveilus, he could not find a source for an unveiling. He mentions on the bottom that the Steipler was once discussing this with his son Reb Chaim Kanievsky, and he said that it is most likely not of Jewish origin.

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The newer Madrikh, by Rabbi Bulka, says the point is for the family to get together to make sure the tombstone is properly in-place (hence the Hebrew term, "hakamat matzeiva"); he then says the "unveiling" practice, whereby the stone is first covered by a cloth and then given a dramatic reveal, "has no basis in Jewish practice whatsoever."

(Me: yet it seems everyone does it...)

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    What's the origin though? Is it a chukat hagoyim introduced by the reform (my theory, for lack of any info) or something else? – Noach MiFrankfurt Aug 6 '15 at 17:04
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The concept of the unveiling stems from the need to clearly mark the gravesite. Removing the cloth from stone symbolizes erecting the tombstone. Making sure that the gravesite is marked properly is a form of honoring the deceased.

In this sense, it would appear that removing the cloth is a similar gesture to placing a stone on the gravesite (a reminder that the family is there, and an ancient way of marking gravesites).

More Info

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    "Removing the cloth from stone symbolizes erecting the tombstone." I don't know why we need to symbolize doing it. We just did it. Why symbolize it again? – Double AA Aug 7 '15 at 20:49
  • It could be considered the completion of the process, similarly to the concept of "The final blow of a hammer" which completes the vessel. – WhyEnBe Aug 7 '15 at 20:51
  • Except it's absolutely 100% done beforehand. – Double AA Aug 7 '15 at 21:00
  • Well the stone is carved and installed but not yet dedicated. – WhyEnBe Aug 7 '15 at 22:59

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