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October 23, 2016 / 21 Tishri, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘monument’

Q & A: Erecting A Monument Over A Grave

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Question: Recently it came to light that there is no memorial stone over the grave of a family member who passed away some time ago. He has children, but, unfortunately, they refuse to do anything to rectify this matter. Worse, they say that erecting a monument is not a requirement. I don’t agree with them. Please quote sources so that I can prove to them that they must erect a memorial stone.

Name withheld by request


Answer: Your question is, unfortunately, a matter that we have dealt with in the past, but not in depth. Because of your question, we will republish and expand upon our original answer in the hope that doing so will resolve this matter in a way that results in your dearly departed relative receiving the honor he is due.

First of all, as we will set forth, not placing a memorial stone over the grave of a departed relative is not optional. It is an absolute requirement. A child or husband/wife is required to place a tombstone over the grave of his/her parent or wife/husband. The Torah states that Jacob placed a stone over Rachel’s grave (Genesis 35:20) “Vayatzev Yaakov matzeivah al kvurasa hi matzevet kvurat Rachel ad hayom – Jacob set up a monument over her grave; it is the monument of Rachel’s grave until today.” The custom to do so is mentioned throughout Tanach (II Kings 23:17; Jeremiah 31:21, etc.).

We find numerous references throughout the Talmud indicating the need to place a stone over a grave. In the Gemara (Baba Bathra 58a) Rabbi Bana’ah is especially praised for marking caves (tombs) with dead bodies, including the Ma’arat Hamachpelah. The Gemara (Baba Metzia 85b) also states that R. Shimon ben Lakish is said to have marked the burial place of rabbis and to have cast himself in prayer on the graves of the pious for the propitiation of the great sages of Beit Shammai and of the just and the wronged.

Rabbi Yechiel Michel Tukacinzky (Gesher Hachayyim ch. 28) offers three reasons for placing a stone over a grave: 1) to mark off the place of the grave – so that a priest not tread there; 2) to establish the location of the grave so that relatives and offspring can visit and pray in the merit of the deceased; 3) to honor the spirit of the departed soul.

The Gemara (Mo’ed Katan 5a) relates that Rabbi Simeon ben Pazzi said, “Where is there an indication in Scripture that gravesites be marked? From the following verse (Ezekiel 39:15) ‘v’ro’oh etzem adam u’vonoh etzlo tziyyon – and when [passersby] see a human bone, they will set up a marker near it.’” We find this ruling in the Rambam (Hilchot Tum’at Met 8:9), who states that it is an absolute requirement to place a stone on a grave in order not to create a stumbling block for passersby.

We find as well in the Mishnah (Shekalim 2:5) that Rabbi Nathan said, “From the surplus of funds collected for the burial of a person, a tombstone should be erected over his grave.” The Gemara elaborates that not only did Rabbi Nathan order the surplus be allocated for a tombstone, he also ordered that some of that surplus be used to satisfy the requirement of sprinkling aromatic wine over the deceased’s bier as he/she lies in state prior to his/her burial.

The commentary Taklin Chad’tin (sv yibaneh lo Nefesh al kivro”) explains that we should set in place above the grave a structure – a mausoleum or a monument – which serve as a remembrance for the soul and enables survivors to come and remember him or her. It is a matter of kavod ha’met – honor due to the dead. Thus, we see that there might be a requirement to set upon the grave an elaborate structure; surely, minimally, one is required to place a memorial stone.

The Mishnah states that the funds for the stone should come from the surplus of funds collected for the burial. If there are no surplus funds, it seems that one cannot force the deceased’s child, spouse, or other close relative to erect a stone. According to Tractate Moed Katan, though, it seems that the requirement is absolute, since it states that the tombstone’s purpose is to prevent passersby from stepping unlawfully on the grave.

A son should certainly be persuaded to attend to this mitzvah as soon as possible for yet another reason: kibbud av v’em. The duty to honor one’s parents continues even after their deaths (Kiddushin 31b).

Furthermore, if a person has children and wishes to earn their respect, he must remember that children often learn by example. As the years pass, he may one day come to regret being nonchalant in this matter and not erecting a gravestone.

Rabbi Yaakov Klass

Café el-Fishawy, Cairo

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

Some 240 years ago, a man named al-Fishawy began serving coffee to his friends in an alley of Cairo’s Khan al-Khalili district each evening after prayers. The al-Fishawy’s gatherings grew larger and stretched longer, and the rest is history.

Qahwat al-Fishawi (Fishawy’s Café) is the most renowned café in the Arab world and a monument to the traditional Egyptian way of relaxing with friends—and the occasional stranger— over coffee, tea and tobacco.

We pray for the residents of Cairo to be able to emerge from their current strife and to return to their sweet and harmless (except for the tobacco thing) way.

Yori Yanover

What Obama Didn’t See in Palestine (Israel)

Monday, March 25th, 2013

“I will never compromise when it comes to Israel’s security… Not when there are terrorist groups and political leaders committed to Israel’s destruction. Not when there are maps across the Middle East that don’t even acknowledge Israel’s existence.

  Barack Obama, AIPAC Conference, June 4, 2008

The sharp eyes at Palestinian Media Watch couldn’t help but catch the controversy surrounding the Palestinian Authority’s monument to terrorism in Bethlehem that erased Israel from the map.

In order to hide their true intentions from President Obama, who was set to pass by that area, the Palestinian Authority removed a large monument/map of the “State of Palestine”  located in Bethlehem’s Central Square.

The monument celebrates two events, the UN vote for the “State of Palestine” in 2012, and the first Fatah (PLO) terrorist attack in 1965 (note, that is 2 years before the “occupation”).

The local residents were enraged that their map of an Israel-free Palestine was removed in order to not offend the Obama’s willful fiction of a peace-loving Palestinian Authority.

For more details, read the entire article on Palestinian Media Watch.

Jewish Press News Briefs

Putin Vows: Holocaust Will Not Be Repeated

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

Two years ago, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on a visit to Moscow, proposed the idea of a monument in Israel commemorating the sacrifices of the Red Army on behalf of Jews, President Putin promised to come to Israel for the inauguration ceremony.

On Monday, President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, and Jewish leaders from around the world unveiled the brand-new Victory Monument in Netanya, Israel.

“I am very excited to be here today,” said President Putin. “We live in a fragile world and we are obligated to make sure that this dark and tragic time in history does not repeat itself. The Jewish Holocaust was the most shameful and dark event in human history, and the Soviet Army was the one who crushed the head of the Nazi monster.”

Puttin added: “This amazing monument strengthens the respect I feel towards to the Jewish people and the State of Israel…The wings in the monument are white like the wings of the dove that symbolizes peace.”

The design of the Monument was a first-ever joint initiative of Israel and Russia, conducted by a committee of members from both countries and funded by major Jewish philanthropists led by Keren Hayesod – UIA and the World Forum of Russian Jewry.

President Putin visited Israel specifically for the inauguration ceremony.

The Monument honors the millions of Red Army soldiers who perished in the war, among them 120,000 Jews.

Alexander Levin, President of the World Forum of Russian Jewry, a persistent supporters of the monument, said, “Millions of Russian Jews around the world are united at this moment in solidarity for the brave Red Army soldiers.”

More than half a million Jewish soldiers fought with the Red Army in WWII against the Nazis.

Jewish Press Staff

Russia to Possess Historic Building in Heart of Jerusalem

Monday, June 25th, 2012

The transfer of one of Jerusalem’s most prime pieces of real estate to Russia will be finalized when the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) vacates its offices, following the completion of talks between Israel and Russia on Sunday.

In 2008, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert presented the Sergei building and its 9-acre courtyard with gardens and fishponds in the Russian Compound as a gift to the Russian government.  He made the gesture during a visit to Moscow to persuade President Dimitry Medvedev not to sell arms to Syria and to back sanctions against Iran.  The decision to transfer the property was made by the prime minister, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Finance Minister Roni Bar-On and Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann.

Last year, the Agriculture Ministry and the Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites evacuated their offices in the compound.  SPNI issued a request to continue working in the offices, but was denied by the Russian government.

Israel gained control of approximately 90 percent of the Russian compound in 1964, paying the Russian government $3.5 million in citrus fruits for the property due to lack of hard currency – hence the dubbing of the agreement the “Orange Deal”.

The Sergei building, not included in the sale, was completed in 1890, and served as a hotel for Russian aristocrats, royalty, and dignitaries on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It was named for brother of Tzar Alexander III, Grand Duke Sergei, then President of the Imperial Russian Orthodox Palestine Society.   The property had been purchased by Tzar Alexander II in 1860 from the Ottoman Empire.

When the plan to give possession of the property to Russia was announced in 2008, opponents protested the giving over of Jerusalem heritage sites to foreign entities, and warned that Russia was not a strong enough ally to trust with the property.  Then-candidate for Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat also disapproved of the plan, calling it a “dangerous precedent, giving property in the heart of Jerusalem to foreign interests.”

Russia has vowed to keep the area open to the public, and says it will restore the yard and buildings for use by Russian pilgrims visiting Jerusalem today.

The SPNI announcement comes just a day before Russian Premier Vladimir Putin’s Monday arrivalin Israel on an official state visit.  The leader is expected to meet with top Israeli officials to discuss Iran’s nuclear progress.  He will also dedicate a monument in Netanya to the valor of the Red Army in World War II.  The large stone monument consisting of a pair of white wings, an unprecedented joint-state venturebetween Israel and Russia, will also honor the more than half a million Jewish Red Army soldiers who fought in the war.

Malkah Fleisher

Hungarian Police Investigating Desecration of Holocaust Monument

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

A Holocaust memorial monument in the southwest of Hungary was desecrated.

The perpetrators broke off several parts of the bronze monument, which stands 3 1/2 feet high and is the shape of a large menorah. Hungarian police said they were investigating the incident.

The Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary said the monument was desecrated sometime over the last weekend. It stood in the courtyard of the buildings of the Jewish community of Nagykanizsa. The local Jewish community erected the monument, near the Croatia border, in 2004.

All seven menorah branches were sawed off and the main shaft was broken. Only part of the three-pronged base remains.

Some 120 Hungarians protested on June 7 in Budapest against anti-Semitism in Hungary. The demonstration was in reaction to an attack against a former chief rabbi. On June 3, a cemetery was desecrated near the capital.

In a letter to the country’s Jewish leaders, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban expressed his “indignation” at the cemetery attack and ordered the Interior Ministry to track down the perpetrators.


Tobi Kahn’s New Harmony

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Shalev at New Harmony, Indiana;
Thresholds at The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary
3080 Broadway, New York, N.Y.   (212) 678 8082
Sunday through Friday; 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.; Free Admission
Until June 30, 2009

        Imagine if we could all work and live together in harmony.  We ask for this three times a day, “May it be good in Your eyes to bless Your people Israel at every time, in every hour, with Your peace.”   This ancient plea, harmony between us and our G-d, harmony between us and our fellow Jews and mankind, is one of the most fundamental yearnings we experience.  We are not alone in this deeply human quest.  In 1814 a group of Separatists from the German Lutheran Church led by Johann Georg Rapp came to Indiana’s frontier to find religious freedom and establish a utopian communal society in a new town named New Harmony. The community lasted barely 10 years before moving back to Pennsylvania but in that short time was a successful enterprise of cooperation and pious living.   The town is still there and at the New Harmony Inn that 185 years ago used to welcome seekers, Tobi Kahn’s monumental sculpture, Shalev, stands, promising a kind of refuge from the struggles of daily life that still besets us all.

       The rough-hewn granite sculpture commissioned by Jane Owen and the Robert Lee Blaffer Trust in 1993 stands close to 13 feet high and is composed of three colossal blocks; two rectangular pillars that support a massive lintel. Paradoxically, the monument itself cannot itself give shelter, since the “sanctuary” space is occupied by an abstract bronze figure, a sculptural everyman.  The giant stone lintel seems to loom out at anyone who approaches the sculpture.  This elemental quality radiates a sense of welcoming but primitive protection, a hope of shelter.  Its idiosyncratic title, “Shalev,” a contraction of shalom (peace) and lev (heart), echoes this sentiment.  Indeed the attempt to find a harmony between the viewer and the surrounding uncertain world is exemplified by the adjacent landscape.  While most of the year bucolic fields stretch beyond the sculpture the rainy season brings a flood from the Wabash River right up to the foot of the monument, sorely testing our faith in the artwork’s message.   We identify with the protected figure and feel a strange kind of comfort in its safety.



Shalev (1993) granite & bronze monumental sculpture by Tobi Kahn
Courtesy New Harmony Inn, New Harmony, Indiana


      Why?  Why do many of Tobi Kahn’s works evoke this response?  Kahn, an observant Jew who has exhibited, taught and created these kinds of works of art for his entire professional career, believes in the redemptive power of art.   He sees the making, viewing and teaching about art as an act of prayer, an appeal to G-d that, if we approach 
these artworks with the proper intention and concentration, can actually alter our consciousness.  For Kahn, art is a primary step in tikkun olam.



Shalev (1993) Flood Season; granite and bronze monumental sculpture by Tobi Kahn
Courtesy New Harmony Inn, New Harmony, Indiana


      Thresholds, an exhibition of Kahn’s work at the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, presents additional examples of the redemptive possibilities of visual art.  Surprisingly the works that evoke this sense of protection are diminutive in scale, quite the opposite of the New Harmony monument.  Nonetheless they radiate a comfort and 
reassurance well beyond their modest proportions.

      In one of the display cases we find three ceremonial boxes, each colorfully painted and uniquely shaped.  Two are titled “Zedek” and function as tzedakah boxes with thin rectangular openings ready to receive charity donations.  But there the similarity ends.  One turquoise box resembles a small altar with a gently curved roof meeting curved sides that enclose the sacred treasury.  The other box, cobalt blue with front and back painted panel inserts, is more business-like, a confident little monument to our expected generosity to those in need.  Both of these exhibit, by their carefully considered forms, surfaces and colors, the seriousness of the mitzvah of charity.   Their monumentality, small in size but with large intent, express a determination to repair the world in a most concrete manner.



Zedek, Hadahr, Zedek (2006 – 2007) Tzedakah and Esrog containers by Tobi Kahn
Courtesy The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York


      Perhaps to balance the act of giving, the third box is titled  “Hadahr,” literally meaning beautiful and fulfilling its function as an esrog box.  In its way it is more decorative than its neighbors, exhibiting an illustrative panel showing the esrog tree with its fruit, hanging ready for the picking.  Its gold cover communicates that this fruit is indeed the object of one very special mitzvah.

      All three of these objects provide a safe enclosure, a kind of sanctuary, each provoking a positive act that affects the world either by literally making it better; helping another human being; or by affirming G-d’s sovereignty in obeying his commandments.

      The simple and yet monumental character of these works is similarly reflected in other objects in the exhibition.  “Lahav,” a rather impressive memorial light, again plays upon the altar motif that reflects the traditional Jewish respect in honoring and remembering our dead.  Kahn seems to be saying that we do much more than recall our loved ones; we must hold them up and honor them as a blazing flame that will enlighten our lives as we attempt to move forward without them.  In Kahn’s hands a yarzheit becomes a celebration that allows us to live yet another year emulating our departed.

      Shifting from the personal to the familial, the Seder plate, “Erhu II,” proclaims its grand message in the simplest sculptural form.  Atop deep blue square shelves for the three ceremonial matzoth, six cups frame the six small plates necessary for the ritual objects central to the Seder itself.  Additionally these six cups reflect the mandatory four cups of wine plus a possibility of both a cup for Eliyahu and Miriam, a thoroughly modern and progressive gesture consistent with Kahn’s belief in a wide-ranging tikkun olam.



Erhu II (2007) Seder plate by Tobi Kahn
Courtesy The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York


      There are many other objects and paintings to be seen at Kahn’s JTS exhibition that is part of the 2009 Artist-in-Residence Program directed by Vivian B. Mann, a number of which I have previously reviewed.  One major new work, “Ashkaf,” is a site-specific installation of 8 abandoned card catalogs, each housing 72 drawers that once contained literally thousands upon thousands of library cards, now totally rendered obsolete by their digital replacement.  Kahn has, at seemingly random intervals, opened the drawers and allowed us to see small abstract objects placed therein.  Unfortunately the aesthetic effect is fractured and puzzling, at best creating a sense of loss and the opposite of the works I have been discussing.



Lahav (2006) Memorial Lamp by Tobi Kahn
Courtesy The Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, New York


      Tobi Kahn’s work presents us with a subtle paradox.  From “Shalev” to “Zedek,” a yarzheit lamp to a Seder plate, the more monumental the forms he uses the more intimate and comforting his aesthetic operates.  It is perhaps because in each work he provides us with a way in, a visual passage that symbolically provides us with shelter and protection either literally or metaphorically.  That passage is an essential fundamental premise of his work; art must be a prayer to provoke an action to do good in the world. New Harmony has just become a bit closer to becoming a reality.

Richard McBee is a painter and writer on Jewish Art. Contact him at rmcbee@nyc.rr.com.

Richard McBee

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/tobi-kahns-new-harmony/2009/06/17/

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