I was at a cemetary today and noticed a few interesting "icons" placed on certain tombstones. Someone explained to me the following:

  • spread-out fingers used for a Cohen, representing the position of the Cohen's hands when performing the Priestly blessing
  • candles on a woman's tombstone - representing the woman who lights Shabbat candles
  • a tree split at its trunk - for young children - representing that the family tree ended as the person died too young to form a family
  • a ship for someone whose profession involved seafaring
  • a lively skeleton (for ?)
  • a pitcher for a Levite

I may have missed a few other notable symbols, so please edit in, if you wish.

I'm curious when and why these symbols became customary. Which Jewish community began this custom and for what purpose?

  • 2
    A couple more examples in the middle half of this page. – WAF Jan 7 '16 at 2:28
  • I added a pitcher for a levite. – JMFB Jan 7 '16 at 12:36
  • i guess that when tombstones started they started to think what to but on it and the rabbis permitted it – hazoriz Jan 7 '16 at 13:21
  • @WAF Thanks for the link to the interesting article. I assume that you edited in some items into my list, as well? My grandparents were Dutch citizens and originally planned to immigrate to Curacao. So, this article intrigues me as an indirect aspect of my heritage and, perhaps, what I "missed". – DanF Jan 7 '16 at 17:25
  • I did add couple items. I can't comment on the "notability" of the other examples listed in that article, so I didn't add them, but they include pictures related to Biblical namesakes. It would be cool to see if there is a connection with the imagery of your Dutch ancestors. – WAF Jan 7 '16 at 17:42

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