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I know that Jews have specific traditions regarding burial and cemeteries, and that one of these traditions involves putting pebbles on gravestones, which I think is quite beautiful, although I don't know the story behind it. I have been led to believe that there are specific restrictions on putting flowers on graves, but I am not familiar with the reasons for it (by the same token, I also don't know why non-Jews do put flowers on graves).

Why don't Jewish people put flowers on graves?

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    Regarding stone on grave see judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/4057/… the most convincing answer I see is that graves used to be covered with cairns that had to be continuously replenished to counter natural erosion. – mevaqesh Aug 19 '15 at 1:59
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    Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (cited in Shut Malmad Lehoil Part II YD Number 109) opined that putting flowers on a grave is forbidden as chukat hagoyim; forbidden (generally religious) non-Jewish practices. (That is forbidden because of their identification as non-Jewish rites). This responsum is cited by R. Ovadiah Yosef who cites lenient disputants. – mevaqesh Aug 19 '15 at 2:00
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    see here for a nice summary of various rabbinic views on the topic. – mevaqesh Aug 19 '15 at 2:05
  • If you like an answer, consider marking it correct. – mevaqesh Aug 14 '17 at 2:53
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To summarize this book: Rabbi Moshe Sofer considers it an unacceptable attempt to emulate the gentiles. (Responsa Bet Shearim, YD No. 402).

In a similar vein, R. David Tzvi Hoffman cites Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (in Shut Malmad Lehoil Part II YD Number 109) opined that putting flowers on a grave is forbidden as imitation of non-Jewish practices.

Rabbi Yitzchak Weiss (d. 1988) in (Responsa Minchas Yitzchak vol. 1 No. 31) reviews the views on the topic, citing an opinion that imitating non-Jewish practices is only prohibited when there is no reason for them other than consciously imitating non-Jews. Accordingly, one might permit the practice as showing respect to others is certainly meaningful, (and not just an attempt to imitate Gentiles). Nevertheless, he concludes that the practice is forbidden as the dead lack awareness of the flowers, so there is no good reason to honor them.


Some of these arguments can be debated, such as the meaningfulness of a gesture performed unbeknownst to its recipient. See there for further discussion.

It should be noted that according the above, the real reason why Jews don't put flowers on graves, is because Jews don't put flowers on graves. This creates a problem for as the OP noted, "I also don't know why non-Jews do put flowers on graves".

  • Not a problem at all - if I don't have to know why other people do put flowers on graves, you don't have to explain why Jews don't do it. "We don't because we don't" is just as valid as "we do because we do". +1 and many thanks, by the way. :) – Wad Cheber Aug 19 '15 at 5:52
  • I understand that one reason why non-Jews put flowers on graves is to make the grave beautiful and pleasing looking. They feel that flowers add color rather than looking at a gray rock slab. I agree that it does make it look prettier. What if this would be the reason why a Jew may want to place flowers on the grave? Would it be different of they want to put plants or shrubbery on the grave? – DanF Aug 19 '15 at 12:56
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    @WadCheber Just in case my comment in the last line wasnt clear, I meant that (according to those who forbid the practice), since Jews generally do not do it, it is regarded as a gentile practice. Since there is no clear reason why they do it either, the practice attains the status of deliberate imitation of gentiles. I didnt meant that Jews simply dont do it "because". – mevaqesh Aug 19 '15 at 17:54
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    @DanF it other than imitating gentiles. Specifically in this case, the practice seemed fairly rational; a show of respect and / or affection towards the departed. Thus whether or not a rabbi considers it rational himself, it could be argued that the motivation of the individual is what determines the permissibility of the act. Lastly, it is difficult for me to find a logical distinction between flowers and rocks. Today we leave rocks (probably as a remnant of a practical practice) as a mere gesture of our presence. Why cant a flower accomplish the exact same thing in a more, well, flowery way? – mevaqesh Aug 19 '15 at 18:03
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    @WadCheber If you and I worried about "stolen" customs, most of Christianity would be gone, and what would Hassidic Jews be without their "shtreimels"? I'm sure that the Vikings don't mind their tradition(al) theft. – DanF Aug 19 '15 at 18:26

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