The unveiling ceremony is one of the less pleasant aspects of Jewish custom. When Jewish people pass away, their families typically bury them as quickly as possible. To Jews, this signifies expediting the soul's passage to heaven and respecting the wishes of the dead. We probably all know from experience, though, that loved ones need longer to grieve. In the Jewish community, the week following burial is called "sitting Shiva." During this time, close family and friends do not take part in daily activities or work for seven days to honor the deceased person.
Jewish law requires that headstones be present and marked, as began by Jacob for Rachel. The unveiling is a ceremony at which the family formally dedicates this headstone. In Israel, the custom is to unveil at the end of sheloshim, a period of thirty days after the death. American Jews wait an entire year and often perform the ritual on yahrzeit, a Yiddish word for the anniversary of a loved one's death. Either way, the unveiling symoblizes the end of the formal mourning period.
At an unveiling, one can expect a brief eulogy that highlights the life of the deceased. After the eulogy, the family reveals the headstone from beneath a white linen cloth and the group recites prayers and verses from the Torah, usually including El Maleh Rakhamim, or Psalm 23, and Kaddish at the end of the service. As always when leaving the gravesite of a loved one or friend, it is Jewish custom to leave a pebble on their grave to mark your visit.