Q & A about Jewish cemeteries and 5-branch menorah
| Published: July 29, 2021
Last week while traveling with friends, we stopped at a Jewish Cemetery in Hurley, WI. One gravestone had a 5-flame menorah on it. Do you know what that signifies? Also there were stones left on top of various gravestones. Does that just mean someone visited?
Thank you very much for considering a stop at a Jewish cemetery and following through! And in Wisconsin! And Hurley! These are not Brooklyn. Who knew there were Jews in such places? At first I thought it was a nearby suburb of a big city like Milwaukee, where you’d expect Jewish migrants to set up shop. But no, it’s out in the middle of nowhere almost. Fascinating historical tidbit to me.
Anyway, regarding the rocks on the gravestones, this is a strong Jewish tradition, in fact it is a physical memento of a visit. Much has been said and can be said about this tradition. I like to think it is a reenactment of the burial, when the deceased is covered with ground and ultimately with a gravestone. Burial in the ground stems from Genesis 3 19: For from dust you came and from dust you shall return. So when we do that, we are accepting God’s plan from the Bible. Stones are also simple, they can be picked up with ease from near the grave, as opposed to flowers that have to be purchased, so there is a lower financial and effort hurdle to honoring the dead with this tradition. Also, there is no “keeping up with the Joneses” trying to bring a bigger or more expensive wreath, such equalization is also a theme of the cemetery. And of course, as you saw, a stone lasts longer than flowers.
Regarding the five branched menora, I found these two articles:
1st article (I suggest clicking Control+F and finding the parts with the word “five”) and this.
I personally identify with one of the comments in the first article, as when I was a child, I was in charge of drawing a sign during color war at camp, and I incorporated a menora in the design, but I drew it late at night and it only had five branches! So sometimes things stem from childish mistakes 🙂