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Chapter 30: The Matzeiva
It is an old and venerated Jewish custom to establish a tombstone on top of a grave to signify its area of burial. Scripturally, it is referred to as a Matzeiva, although in the Mishnah we find it referred to as a Nefesh. Our first encounter with this custom in the Torah is with Yaakov Avinu, who established a monument on the burial grounds of Rachel his wife. It is later mentioned in Yechezkal regarding the war of Gog and Magog, that a sign will be placed on the burial grounds of the bones. The establishing of a Matzeiva is recorded in the Shulchan Aruch and various Poskim who discuss the laws associated with a Matzeiva. There are several reasons offered behind the custom of erecting a Matzeiva, as will now be explained.
The reasons behind establishing a Matzeiva:
1. To remember the deceased: The Matzeiva is placed as a monument to remind the relatives and others of the deceased.
2. To protect from impurity: A Kohen is forbidden to come in contact with the dead. In addition, in Temple times even ordinary Jews would need to retain purity from the dead in order to enter the Temple and partake in sacrificial foods. Erecting a Matzeivah above the grave would alert people as to its existence so that they could remain ritually pure and avoid approaching it.
3. To publicize the good deeds of the deceased: By erecting a Matzeiva and writing the person’s name, their memory and good deeds remain alive.
4. So that people can pray at the grave: It is customary to pray at the graves of Tzadikim, and relatives. This is greatly beneficial for the soul of the deceased and in this merit the soul beseeches G-d to assist the one who prayed for him with what he needs.
5. Place for the Nefesh to reside: The term that our sages use for a tombstone is “Nefesh” which also means soul. This is because, according to Kabbalah, the level of the soul called Nefesh remains eternally hovering over the grave except on Shabbos, holidays and other known times when it ascends to delight in the Eden of souls. The tombstone was thus called a Nefesh as it is built to honor this level of the soul and to define its space.
1. Which graves receive a tombstone:
The custom of all Israel is to establish a Matzeiva on the graves of all Jewish men, women, and children [who are not Nefalim, and are past the age of 30 days]. It is likewise established on the burial grounds of Tzadikim.
Must each grave have their own individual tombstone, or can it be shared amongst a number of graves?
It is permitted to make a large tombstone over two graves, and it is not necessary to have a single tomb stone over each grave. A number of Gedolei Yisrael had their gravestones shared with a sibling or spouse, in a way that covered both graves.
Should a tombstone or memorial be erected on behalf of one whose area of burial is unknown?
There is no source in Jewish literature or culture for establishing a tombstone, or memorial, for a deceased outside of his area of burial. Some, however, are accustomed to write the names of unlocated deceased individuals on the Matzeiva of their relatives.
2. Who is obligated to erect the Tombstone:
Wife passed away: If one’s wife passes away, it is the husband’s obligation to pay for the burial expenses, including the erection of the tombstone. [See Halacha 7 regarding if he may attend the ceremony in the event that he remarried.]
Father passes away, or unmarried mother: The children are obligated to erect a tombstone/Matzeiva on the grave of their father or mother, if the parent left an inheritance for their children. If however they did not leave any inheritance for their children, then the children are not obligated to pay for the tombstone expenses, and the expense rather falls onto the community. Other Poskim however rule that this only applies if the deceased pronounced prior to his death that he does not want to be buried from his assets. However, if he did not make any statement, then even if the children did not receive any inheritance from the parents, nevertheless they are obligated and enforced to pay for the expenses if they can afford to do so.
No husband or children: If a person passed away without leaving any money, and does not have a husband or children, then his father is to cover the expenses.
May one use charity/Maaser money to build a Matzeiva?
The building of a Matzeiva is considered a necessity for which charity money can be collected to help fund. People who donate towards the cause may deduct the cost from their Maaser funds.
Children of the deceased: The children of the deceased may not use Maaser money to purchase a Matzeiva for their father or mother.
Husband: The husband of the deceased may not use Maaser money to purchase a Matzeiva for his wife.
3. When is the Matzeiva to be erected?
Various customs exist regarding when the Matzeiva is to be erected. Some hold it is to be done immediately after the completion of Shiva. Others hold it is to be done at the completion of Shloshim. Others hold it is to be done after the first 12 months. Practically, the Chabad custom is to erect the Matzeiva on the 8th day after the burial, which is the day after Shiva. This matter should not lead to dispute, and hence certainly if the entire family decides to do so at the end of the first year, one is not to oppose it. Whatever the case, one is not to build, or even begin building, the Matzeiva until after the completion of Shiva. [However, some are accustomed to lay the foundation of the Matzeiva already on the 7th day, after Shiva is complete, and then complete the Matzeiva on the 8th day. Others are accustomed to build the foundation at the time that the grave is dug, and then build the frame of the Matzeiva, and the Matzeiva, after the Shiva.]
Erev Shabbos and Erev Yom Tov: It is permitted to establish a Matzeiva on Erev Shabbos or Yom Tov.
Rosh Chodesh and other days without Tachanun: One is not to establish a Matzeiva on Rosh Chodesh, or any other day that Tachanun is omitted, unless eulogies will not take place during the occasion, in which case it may be done. [If the eighth day fall out on a day that Tachanun is omitted, then one is to nevertheless establish the Matzeiva on that day.]
Thirty days before a Holiday: Some Poskim rule one may not establish a Matzeiva within thirty days before Pesach, Sukkos, Shavuos, being that it is forbidden to eulogize during this time.
Month of Nissan: Some Poskim rule one may not establish a Matzeiva in the month of Nissan. Other Poskim rule it is permitted to do so, so long as eulogies will not take place during the occasion.
4. The material, size, shape, position, and cost of the Matzeiva:
Material: The old age custom is to make stone monuments, as opposed to wood or other materials.
Cost: The Matzeiva should not be too expensive, and should not be adorned with precious gems or metals.
Size: There is no minimum or maximum measurement for the dimensions of the Matzeiva, and even a small stone suffices. Nevertheless, one may not swerve from the custom of the cemetery, as explained in Halacha 5A. Likewise, it is not proper to make the Matzeiva very large.
Shape and Direction: There are two different customs regarding the shape of the tombstone. Some make a flat tombstone, which lies to the length of the body [i.e. widespread Sephardic custom, and custom of Eretz Yisrael], while others make an erect tombstone which stands erect on the body in a vertical position, by the head of the deceased [i.e. widespread Ashkenazi custom, and custom of Diaspora]. Practically, one is not to change from the practice of the cemetery that the deceased is being buried in. The custom amongst the Chabad cemeteries, as well as most Ashkenazi cemeteries, is to make erect tombstones by the head of the deceased.
Location: The Matzeiva is to be positioned on top of the actual area of the grave, although in a time of need it suffices for it to be nearby, within a four Amos radius.
5. Benefiting from the Matzeiva:
A Matzeiva which was erected on a grave is forbidden in benefit. [It is thus forbidden to use the broken pieces of stone from a Matzeiva for any purpose. It is likewise forbidden to recycle its use for other Matzeivos.] See Chapter 31 Halacha 11 for the full details of this matter!
May one break a Matzeiva for the sake of making more space in a cemetery?
There is danger, and a possible prohibition, involved in damaging the Matzeiva of a grave, and therefore it is not to be done.
6. The writing on the Matzeiva?
It is customary to have writing on the Matzeiva. This includes, the names, dates and other matters, as will be elaborated in this Halacha.
A. General rule
Following the custom of the cemetery: In all cases, one may not swerve from the established custom of the cemetery in which the deceased is buried, and hence if all the Matzeivos there contain a certain matter that is written or is not written, or any other aspect, it is likewise to be followed in the Matzeiva that one wishes to establish.
No protruding letters: All letters that are written on the Matzeiva are to be engraved in an internal method, as opposed to protruding. In all cases, one is not to swerve from the custom of the cemetery.
Language: Some write that the words on the Matzeiva are to be written only in Hebrew.
Ashuri script: It is permitted to write the letters on the Matzeiva in Ashuri script. This applies even if Hashem’s name is being written on the Matzeiva.
The side of the writing: The custom is to write the words on the front side of the Matzeiva, which is the side of the Matzeiva that one faces when standing by the foot of the grave, and not on the back side of the Matzeiva.
Pictures: It is forbidden to make a sculpture or engraving of a human figure on a Matzeiva. Likewise, it is not to contain any pictures.
B. The Nussach:
The words פ”נ: It is customary to write the letters פ”נ on top of the Matzeiva. These letters are an abbreviation for the words “Poh Nitman,” [or Poh Nignaz] which means “here was buried.”
Title and description: It is customary to write an introductory title of the deceased such as Harav, or Hatamim, or Maras. Some are also accustomed to write a description of “Avinu/Our father”, “Baal/Husband”, and other titles of the like. The Rebbe emphasized that one should avoid writing the above words in first person, and it is rather to be written in third person, and hence the above words should be omitted.
Praises: It is customary to write praises of the deceased on the tombstone. However, one must be very careful not to exaggerate the praises, as in heaven, the soul is held accountable for them. If one is in doubt as to whether something is accurate, then it is to be omitted. [However, many write praises that fit the reality of the deeds of the deceased. These include the tombstones of Harav Gringlass, Rav Ashkenazi and others. Although, many tombstones contain almost nothing in writing, and do not include any praise.] If one is in doubt about a particular expression etc., one should simply leave it out. In fact, the renowned sage Rabbi Akiva Eiger requested that his tombstone say simply, “Here is buried Rabbi Akiva Eiger.”
Name of deceased/father/mother/relatives: One is to write the name of the deceased on the Matzeiva. One is to write his Hebrew name and the Hebrew name of his father. Some, however, are accustomed to write the name of the mother of the deceased. Others write the names of both parents. [The widespread Chabad custom is to only write the name of the father of the deceased. Some are accustomed to write the names of other relatives whose area of burial is unknown, and thus do not have a Matzeiva. This is likewise the Chabad custom.] The names of those written are to be written in full, and not in abbreviations or initials.
Tzadikim: Chassidim are accustomed to write the names of the Tzaddikim that the deceased was connected to in his lifetime. One writes that he was a Chassid of, or connected to, so and so the Tzaddik, making sure to write the full name of the Tzaddik.
Date: One is to write the Hebrew date of the passing of the deceased. It is forbidden, however, to write the secular date. Some are also accustomed to write the date of birth of the deceased. [This is not the Chabad custom.] If the person passed away on Erev Yom Kippur, or on Yom Kippur, then the term Yom Hakadosh should be written on the Matzeiva, rather than Yom Kippur.
Numbers: It is permitted to write numbers [such as the year 5779] on a Matzeiva, although some Poskim are stringent.
תנצב”ה: It is customary to include the Hebrew letters תנצב”ה which stands for the words . תהֵא נשמתוֹ/נפשו צְרוּרָה בִּצְרוֹר הַחַיִּים. These words mean: “May his/her soul be bound in the rock of life.”
If the deceased had remarried, may the name of his or her first spouse be written on the Matzeiva?
It is better not to do so, unless it is written in an incospicuous manner, such as on the side of the grave.
Renovating and replacing a Matzeiva:
It is permitted, and encouraged, to renovate and replace a Matzeiva that is broken or illegible. [The responsibility for doing so falls upon the children of the deceased, or the charity funds of the Chevra Kadisha, if the children cannot pay for it. The Chevra Kadisha, or management of the burial grounds, should perform occassional inspections of the tombstones for this purpose. All the broken pieces of the Matzeiva are forbidden in benefit, as explained in Halacha 5.] One may add new words of praise to the Matzeiva, but may not diminish from that which was already written.
Adding or fixing words and phrases to an already erected Matzeiva:
It is permitted to remove the Matzeiva from the grave for the sake of adding or fixing letters, words or phrases, for the benefit of the deceased. However, one is not to do so for the sake of adding the names of other relatives. Nevertheless, one may engrave the new names while the Matzeiva is erect.
May one take a picture of a Matzeiva?
Yes. This is depsite the fact that it is forbidden to benefit from a Matzeiva.
7. The ceremony:
There are various customs in regard to the prayers to be recited upon establishing the Matzeiva, and there is no one correct order. Some are accustomed to reciting the prayers printed in the Maaneh Lashon, although this has not been witnessed to be the Chabad practice. Practically, the normal order followed upon visiting a grave, and the following other customs, are practiced during the visitation and ceremony:
Who attends: There is no obligation for family members to be by the establishing of the Matzeiva ceremony, and in previous times it was actually rare to have family present. Nonetheless, today it is common practice for the family to visit the grave in honor of the establishing of the Matzeiva.
Birchas Asher Yatzar Eschem Badin: Those who have not been to a cemetery in 30 days are to recite the blessing of Asher Yatzar Eschem Badin, as explained in chapter 31 Halacha 6E.
Lighting a Candle: It is customary to light a candle on the Matzeiva, being that on it resides the soul of the deceased. Upon lighting the candle, one is to say, “I am lighting this candle in merit of the soul so and so.”
Placing the left hand on the grave: Many are accustomed to place a hand on the grave upon praying. One is to place specifically his left hand on the grave.
The prayer on the grave: When one arrives at the grave, he is to say that “May the resting place of so and so be with honor and may his merit stand for me in my favor” Upon placing the left hand on the grave one is to say the verse in Yeshayah 58:11:
“ונחך ה׳ תמיד והשביע בצחצחות נפשך ועצמותך יחליץ והיית כגן רוה וכמוצא מים אשר לא יכזבו מימיו”
After the above verse is recited, one says “Tishkav Beshalom Ad Ba Menachem Mashmiei Shalom.” [The above prayers are omitted from the Chabad Seder of Maaneh Lashon, and is seemingly not recited according to our custom.]
Tehillim: Some are accustomed to reciting the following seven Psalms upon erecting the Matzeiva: Tehillim 33, 16, 17, 72, 91, 104, 130. One then says Psalm 119 in accordance to the name of the deceased and the name of his mother, as well as the word Neshamah. The documented Chabad custom, however, is to recite the Psalms printed in the Maaneh Lashon, which include 25, 34, 111, 112, 119 and from 120 until 150. This is then followed by Vayehi Noam, Yosheiv Beseiser, and Ana Bekoach. The Rebbe was witnessed to follow the former custom upon visiting the grave of his brother in-law, the Rashag, by his first Yahrzeit.
Kaddish: Some are accustomed to reciting Kaddish Yasom after the completion of the Tehillim.
Keil Malei Rachamim: Some are accustomed to reciting Keil Malei Rachamim after the completion of the Tehillim and the recital of Kaddish Yasom. [Some omit the prayer of Keil Malei Rachamim on days that Tachanun is omitted while others recite it.]
Keil Elokeiy Haruchos: Some are accustomed to reciting the prayer of Keil Elokeiy Haruchos with the name of the deceased upon erecting the Matzeiva. [This is not the widespread Chabad custom.]
Mishnayos: It is customary to learn Mishnayos upon erecting the Matzeivah. [Those who do so are to recite Kaddish Derabanan afterwards, if there is a Minyan present.]
Eulogy: It is customary to recite eulogies during the ceremony of establishing the Matzeiva. Eulogies, however, may not be said on days that Tachanun is omitted.
Charity: One is to pledge charity on behalf of the soul of the deceased, during the establishing of the Matzeiva ceremony. One is to explicitly state in his pledge that he is doing so Bli Neder, otherwise it has the state of a Neder. It is proper to pay the pledge immediately afterwards.
Placing a stone on the grave: Many have a custom to place a stone on the grave prior to leaving, as explained in Chapter 31 Halacha 6J.
Kissing the Kever: Some are accustomed to kiss the Matzeiva prior to leaving the cemetery. See Chapter 31 Halacha 6K for the full details of this subject.
Crying: One is to avoid crying over the death of the deceased upon visiting the grave, as the Sages allocated three days for crying and not longer.
May a husband attend the Matzeiva ceremony of his first wife if he already remarried?
This matter is disputed amongst Poskim, and hence it is best to establish the Matzeiva prior to the marriage.
 See Pnei Baruch 36; Nitei Gavriel Volume 2 chapters 67-68
 Bereishis 35:20 regarding Yaakov Avinu; Rebbe Nasan in Yerushalmi Shekalim 2:5
 Bereishis 35:20
 See Mishneh and Gemara Yerushalmi Shekalim 2:5; See Ta’amei HaMinhagim, page 476
 The Torah says [Bereishis 35:20] “And Yaakov erected a monument on her grave; that is the monument of Rachel until this day.” There is, however, no mention that Avraham erected a monument when he buried Sarah or that Yitzchak erected a monument for Avraham.
 Yechezkal 39:14 and 15 “When they see a human bone, they shall build a sign next to it until the buriers bury it.”
 See Michaber 348:2; Tur 348; Rosh Kelal 13; Rivash 421; Rashba 56; Mavor Yabok Imrei Noam 41; Likkutei Torah of Arizal Parshas Vayechi; Mishnes Chassidim Gemilus Chassadim 3:13
 See Pardes Yosef on Bereishis 35:20
 See Lechem Hapanim 376
 See Mishneh Moed Katan 1:2 that that the court would send out messengers to mark the graves. See also Nidda 7:5; In previous times, they would do this by pouring plaster over the graves. [Pirush Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenura]
 See Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel in Yerushalmi Shekalim 2:5
 See Chedvas Yaakov Tinyana 141 in name of Rav Chaim Vital
 Arizal in Shaar Hamitzvos Vayechi “As the Matzeiva serves a as resting place for the encompassing lights of the soul of the deceased, and these encompassing lights are not ready to rest until after the Shiva.”; Taamei Haminhagim 1070 [page 476] in name of Sefer Sheireis Yisrael in Hakdama, based on Zohar and Arizal
 See Chapter 10 regarding the definition of a Nefel!
 Darkei Chesed 29:1; Nitei Gavriel 66:28
 This is despite the Talmudic dictum [Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel in Talmud Yerushalmi, Shekalim 2:5 and Bereishis Rabbah 82:10] of “One need not make a monument for the righteous as their words are their memorials.”
 See Nitei Gavriel 66:21; So can be seen an even old Jewish cemeteries
 See Betzel Hachochmah 4:31 in name of Daas Zekeinim that the Kever of Eldad and Meidad shared a single tombstone. It is said that the author of the Haflah and Rav Nasan Adler share the same tombstone. Likewise, the tombstone of the Maharal in Prague covered him and his wife, although it is stated that this was built many years later.
 Igros Moshe Y.D. 5:54; Nitei Gavriel Volume 66:3 in name of Rav Moshe Feinstein in Sefer Halacha Urefuah
 Nitei Gavriel ibid
 See Michaber 348:2; Choshen Mishpat 253:31
 Michaber Even Haezer 89:1 “Even the stone placed on the grave”; Admur 71:1; Shach 366:4; Aruch Hashulchan 348:2
 Michaber 348:2; Choshen Mishpat 253:31; The above obligation includes all the expenses involved in the commonly done burial of that family, including the Matzeiva, as is evident from Michaber Even Haezer 89:1; See also Pischeiy Teshuvah 356:1
 Shach 348:5 as is implication of Michaber ibid; Aruch Hashulchan ibid
 Maharam Mintz 51-53; Chavos Yair 139; Beis Hillel ibid; Gilyon Maharsha; Aruch Hashulchan ibid rules they are obligated to pay in call cases, even if the father said the above.
 See Gilyon Maharsha 348:2; Raavan 33
 See Michaber 356:1; Mishneh Shekalim 2:5; Sanhedrin 48a; Pischeiy Teshuvah 356:1 in name of Radbaz 243
 Minchas Shlomo 2:97-11; Maaser Kesafim 14:56; Shraga Hameir 5:43; Nitei Gavriel 66:2
 The reason: As we rule like the Poskim that say the children are obligated to pay for the burial even if they did not receive an inheritance. [See Michaber 348:2; Choshen Mishpat 253:31; Maharam Mintz 51-53; Beis Hillel ibid; Gilyon Maharsha; Aruch Hashulchan 348:2]
 See Shulchan Menachem 5:283; Pnei Baruch 36; Nitei Gavriel 2 chapter 68
 See Nitei Gavriel 68:1-4 for many customs on this matter
 Arizal in Shaar Hamitzvos Vayechi and in Nagid Mitzvah Inyanei Aveilus; Misgeres Hashulchan 376; Pela Yoetz Kevura [on 8th day]; Minchas Elazar 3:37; Kaf Hachaim 224:45; Hagahos Bnei Yissachar on Mishnayos Shekalim; Custom of Chasam Sofer for his wife; Tzavaah of Rebbe Aaron of Karlin; Minchas Yitzchak 4:107 that so did the Maharsham; Gesher Hachaim 28; See Nitei Gavriel 2 68 footnote 4; See Igros Kodesh 17:270; 14:113; 25:233 that one is not to wait one year. The Rebbe later concludes to do so on the 8th day, as brought in Toras Menachem 1988 2:635; Igros Kodesh 23:411 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 5:283]
The reason: As the Matzeiva serves a as resting place for the encompassing lights of the soul of the deceased, and these encompassing lights are not ready to rest until after the Shiva. [Shaar Hamitzvos ibid] We do not establish it prior to the end of Shiva, as the soul is not yet ready, and doing so causes the impurities to have a resting place. [Naggid Mitzvah] Alternatively, the reason is because throughout each day of Shiva, one spirit of the soul enters the grave, and on the eighth day it needs to be closed up to prevent any of the evil spirits from entering. [Pela Yoeitz ibid]
After Shiva on the 7th day, or on the 8th day: Although the Arizal, and other sources above, do not specify if the intent is to make the Matzeiva on the 7th day, after getting up from Aveilus, or on the 8th day, nonetheless the Pela Yoetz ibid explicitly writes the 8th day and so is the Chabad custom, as explained next. So also concludes Nitei Gavriel 68 footnote 4 after a discussion on the different sides of this matter.
 Custom of Eretz Yisrael, brought in Igros Kodesh 7:74; Mahram Brisk 2:29; Custom brought in Mishmeres Shalom Mem 77; Toras Yekusiel Tinyana 93; Sefarim in Nitei Gavriel Vol. 2 37:3-4 and 68 footnote 5-6
 Elya Raba 224:7; Lechem Hapanim 376 in name of Maaneh Lashon; Beis Lechem Yehuda 376; Rav Akiva Eiger 376; Kitzur SHU”A 199:17; Aruch Hashulchan 376:1; Maharitz Dushinski 1:117; Poskim in Nitei Gavriel 68:1 footnote 1
 The reason: The Matzeiva is placed as a monument to remind the relatives and others of the deceased, and within 12 months regardless the deceased is not forgotten. Likewise, the Matzeiva serves as a matter of prestige and during the 12 months the soul is undergoing pain and is hence unbefitting of having this done. [Lechem Hapanim ibid; Elya Raba ibid; Kitzur SHU”A ibid]
 Toras Menachem 1988 2:635; Igros Kodesh 23:411 [brought in Shulchan Menachem 5:283]
 Igros Kodesh 22:102
 Nagid Mitzvah ibid; Nitei Gavriel 68:1
If Yom Tov broke Shiva: If Yom Tov broke Shiva, then the Matzeiva may be established immediately after Yom Tov, even if it is within seven days. [Betzel Hachochma 4:96; Nitei Gavriel 68:10
 Nitei Gavriel 68:1 footnote 8 that so was done to the Minchas Yitzchak
 Nitei Gavriel 68:1 that so is custom in the Diaspora
 Nitei Gavriel 68:12
 See Shoel Umeishiv Tinyana 2:74 who writes he established a Matzeiva on Rosh Chodesh; Dvar Yehoshua 1:80; Minchas Yitzchak 3:51-52; Kinyan Torah 2:122Nitei Gavriel 16:3; 68:5 and 11; Piskeiy Teshuvos 697:1
 Minchas Yitzchak 4:117; Nitei Gavriel 68:11
 Levushei Mordechai Y.D. 2:140; Nitei Gavriel 68:8
 See Nitei Gavriel 16/3; Piskeiy Teshuvos 429 footnote 17; 697/1
 Minchas Yitzchak 3:51 based on Levushei Mordechai Y.D. 2:140
 Kinyan Torah 2:122
 Yaf Halevi 1:252; Nitei Gavriel 66:14; See chapter 5 Halacha 11 regarding the Tachrichin
 So is the widespread custom of practically all Jewish cemeteries, old and new; Yaakov Avinu built a stone monument, as depicted in Parshas Vayeitzei and Vayishlach; To note, however, that there is a Jewish cemetery in Amsterdam which contains wooden monuments.
 Beis Shlomo Y.D. 2:226; Nitei Gavriel 66:2
 Chida in Hagahos on Sefer Chassidim 738; Nitei Gavriel 66:29
 See Rav Chaim Falagi in Refuas Chaim 23 who writes its best to keep it a dimension of 1×1 Ama.
 Darkei Hachaim 35:5; Nitei Gavriel 66:25
 So can be seen in the old Jewish cemetery of Algeria
 See Chavatzeles Yeshurun 1:94 that the Jewish custom is to place the Matzeiva by the head of the deceased and its forbidden to swerve from this custom; See also Betzel Hachochmah 5:151 and Nitei Gavriel 66:24 that although the widespread custom is to position the erect tombstone by the head of the deceased, although some do so by the feet.
 See Igros Kodesh 10:3
 So can be seen in the old cemetery of Prague; the Rebbe’s cemetery in New York, and the cemetery in Lubavitch
 See Neta Shurok Y.D. 105 based on Kesav Sofer 178; Nitei Gavriel 66:20
 See Shevet Halevi 5:176; Igros Kodesh 14:211 [printed in Shulchan Menachem 5:285]
 See Shulchan Menachem 5:286-290
 See Horiyos 13a “Even the writing on the Kever”
 Maharam Shick 171; Igros Kodesh 11:3 [regarding the Matzeiva of his father Rav Levi Yitzchak Schneerson]; 20:113 and 10:3; Nitei Gavriel 66:19
 Igros Kodesh 13:94; See Horiyos 13b that one who reads the writing on a grave forgets his learning; Arizal in Taamei Hamitzvos Vayechi [in end] explains that this is specifically by protruding letters.
 Darkei Chesed 29:1
 Nitei Gavriel 66:35
 Nitei Gavriel 66:15
 Chasam Sofer 6:4; Maharam Shick 171; Mishmeres Shalom Mem 83; Darkei Chesed 29:1; Nitei Gavriel 66:18; To note, however, that the old cemetery in Prague contains sculptures of animals, and humans with missing limbs, as required according to Halacha.
 The reason: The sculptures are forbidden due to the prohibition of making a sculpture of a human. The pictures are forbidden being that people Daven at the gravesite and it is not befitting to Daven to the picture. [See Poskim ibid]
 See Igros Kodesh 17:272
 Igros Kodesh 23:322, printed in Shulchan Menachem 5:289
 See Chaim Sheol 71:6; Chochmas Adam 155:6; Igros Kodesh 22:160; Nitei Gavriel 66:11
 Igros Kodesh 22:160
 Ta’amei HaMinhagim pg. 477 quoting the last will and testament of the “Holy sage Rabbi Naftali Katz.”
 Penei Baruch 36, note 12 citing the Chesed LeAvraham
 Moshav Zekeinim Parshas Shemos; Nitei Gavriel 66:3
 Maharil; Divrei Torah Munkatch 2:90 that so is the custom of the Talmidei Habesht; Gesher HaChaim 28:3; Darkei Chesed 29:1; Ziv Hasheimos chapter 29; Nussach of most old Kevarim
 Gesher HaChaim 28:3 that so is the Sephardic custom; Darkei Chesed ibid
 Nitei Gavriel 66:6; So is written on many tombstones
 So is the Nussach on the tombstones of the Rebbeim; Nitei Gavriel 66 footnote 12 writes that so is the Chabad custom; To note, however, that on the tombstone of many of the Gedolei Hachassidim, the names of both the father and mother are engraved [see pictures for Matzeiva of Rav Yaakov Landa and Rav Kazrinowski]
 Nitei Gavriel 66:3
 Likkutei Sichos 35:330; The Rebbe instructed that the name of the Rebbetzin’s lost sister, Shayna, be written on the Matzeiva of the Rebbetzin. Likewise, the Rebbe instructed that the name of his lost brother Dovber, be written on the Matzeiva of his brother, Yehuda Aryeh Leib.
 Shulchan Menachem 5:289
 Igros Kodesh 14:239; 17:272; 20:113; 245; 23:323
 Maharil; Gesher HaChaim 28:3; Darkei Chesed 29:1; Nitei Gavriel 66:4; So is the Nussach of the Matzeivas of Gedolei Yisrael of previous generations
 Maharam Shik 171; See Shaareiy Tzedek 199; Get Pashut E.H. 126; Peri Hasadeh 1:3; Yifei Laleiv 4:178; Nitei Gavriel 66:9
The reason: This is forbidden due to Chukos Hagoyim, as they count their years from the date of birth of their idol.
 Igros Kodesh 13:57, printed in Shulchan Menachem 5:289
 Nitei Gavriel 66:10
 Igros Moshe 4:117
 Mahram Shick 171; Nitei Gavriel 66:8; These words are taken from the verse in Shmuel 1 25:29, spoken by Avigail, to David, in plea for her then husband Naval.
 In the origin of this play of words in Shmuel 1 25:29 it states Nafsho. However, that verse is referring to a live person. Many are accustomed to say Nishmaso instead. Practically, both terms are correct and are used, although the more popular use is Nishmaso. To note, however, that the Neshamah of the deceased is the level that actually becomes bound with G-d, while the Nefesh remains below, and hence the term Nishmaso or more accurate according to Kabbalah. See documentary article of Rav Mordechai Fogelman, printed in Sinai 49:176, in which majority of the ancient tombstones all say Nishmaso, although some say Nafsho. To note, also, that in the Nussach of Keil Malei Rachamim, the word Nishmaso and not Nafsho is used.
 See Ateres Moshe 2:240; Nitei Gavriel 66:332-33
 Igros Moshe Y.D. 1:228; Nitei Gavriel 66:34
 Nitei Gavriel 66:26-27
 See Nitei Gavriel 66:16
 Chelek Halevi 125; Nitei Gavriel 66:30
 See Darkei Chesed p. 275; Nitei Gavriel Chapter 67
 Darkei Chesed ibid; See Nitei Gavriel 67:3 that he has not found any Seder of prayers to say when the Matzeiva is established in any Sefer
 Darkei Chesed ibid
 See Nitei Gavriel 67:3; Orchos Rabbeinu in name of Steipler and Rav Chaim Kanievsky that doing so was never a Jewish custom, and it was taken from the gentiles.
 Torah Lishma 520; Seder Maaneh Lashon; Nitei Gavriel 67:3
 Seder Maaneh Lashon; Birkeiy Yosef 224:7 in name of his grandfather the Chesed Leavraham; Shaareiy Teshuvah 224:8; Kitzur SHU”A 128:13; Nitei Gavriel 67:2; See Sheiris Yehuda Miluim 35 that the custom of Hishtatchus is to actually touch or lean on the grave.
 See Seder Maaneh Lashon; Birkeiy Yosef 224:7 in name of his grandfather the Chesed Leavraham; Shaareiy Teshuvah 224:8; Kitzur SHU”A 128:13; Nitei Gavriel 67:2; See Sheiris Yehuda Miluim 35 that the custom of Hishtatchus is to actually touch or lean on the grave.
 Beir Heiytiv 224:8 in name of Drashos Maharash; Kitzur SHU”A 128:13; Nitei Gavriel 67:2
 Darkei Chesed p. 275; See Nitei Gavriel 67:4-9
 Darkei Chesed ibid; Gesher Hachaim 29; Nitei Gavriel 67:9; See Nitei Gavriel 67 footnote 13 [and so writes Seder Minhagei Yahrzeit Chabad based on this] that so was the custom of the Rebbe
 Darkei Chesed ibid; See Siddur Beis Yaakov regarding a Yahrzeit; Nitei Gavriel 67:4 in name of Sefarim [see there that some also say Tehillim corresponding to the word Ben in 119]
 Darkei Chesed ibid, and so is printed in the Maaneh Lashon to be said when visiting the Kever; ; See however Nitei Gavriel 67 footnote 13 who writes the Chabad custom is like the previous Minhag [and so writes Seder Minhagei Yahrzeit Chabad based on this], to say Tehillim 33, 16, 17, 72, 91, 104, 130 and that so was done by the Rebbe by the Matzeiva of the Rashag and the Rebbetzin; When the Rebbe was asked as to which Psalms to recite when erecting the Matzeiva, he directed the asker to ask Rabbanei Anash as to their custom. [See Igros Kodesh 4:173]
 Darkei Chesed p. 275; Nitei Gavriel 67:5-6
 See previous footnotes
 Darkei Chesed p. 275
 Darkei Chesed p. 275; Nitei Gavriel 67:5
 Nitei Gavriel 72:6
 See Nitei Gavriel 67:12-13; The following is the prayer:
א–ל אלקי הרוחות, הנה באנו היום להציב מצבה על קבר פלוני בן(בת) ולהתפלל בעד נפשו (נפשה) הטהורה כי תסתירה בצל כנפך עם כל הצדיקים הנקברים פה צרורים בצרור החיים, השביע. לה שובע שמחות נעימות נצח, ותתענג מזיו כבודך בשערי עדן, שם מחזה ש-די תחזה בין מעלות קדושים וטהורים המאירים כעצם השמים לטהר, תשב לפניך בנוה שלום ובמנוחת שאנן לאור באור החיים עד עולם, הרם קרנה בכבוד עם נפשות הישרים והישרות התמימים והתמימות היושבים לפני הדום רגליך ותן לה מהלכים בין העומדים לפניך, הענק אותה מטוב הצפון לחסידי עליון, גלה אור נועמך עליה ובכבוד והדר תעמוד. לעלות אל הר ה׳ מקום קדשך, שם תתאו את יפיה כי תשתחוה מול הדרת כבודך והיתד. עטרת תפארת בידך וצניף מלוכה בכפך, ומנחלת טובך תנחילה כי תלך לפני צדקתה עד כי תעמוד לגורלה לקץ הימין אמן
 See Darkei Chesed ibid who omits it
 See Birkeiy Yosef 344:7 that so is the custom by a grave, however, he does not discuss the Matzeiva ceremony; Nitei Gavriel 67:10-11
 Nitei Gavriel 67:15
 See Levushei Mordechai Tinyana 140; Minchas Yitzchak 3:51; Nitei Gavriel 67:14
 Nitei Gavriel 67:18
 Michaber Y.D. 203:4; Kitzur SHU”A 67:3; Nitei Gavriel 79:28
 See Alef Hamagen 581:102; Nitei Gavriel 79:30
 See Nitei Gavriel 67:21; Beis Yosef 376 in name of Kol Bo 114; Orchos Chaim Avel; Mishmeres Shalom Zayin 51
 See Michaber 394:1; Moed Katan 27b; Nitei Gavriel 67:23
 See Nitei Gavriel 67:21 in length
 See Minchas Moshe 114 [forbidden]; Seridei Eish 2:136 [permitted and obligation]
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