According to Barbara Binder Kadden, director of the Jewish Educational Council of Seattle, Washington, the origins of the Jewish tradition of marking a headstone with small stones most likely stems from an Old Testament passage, Genesis 35:20. The text reads "Jacob erected a monument on Rachel's grave." It is believed that early Jewish grave markers were simply piles of stone. This tradition of placing stones on graves continued through the years until it took its present form.
Rabbi Maurice Lamm, author of "The Jewish Way in Death and Mourning," says putting stones on headstones is a reminder of a family's presence and offers respect to the deceased.
One of the main texts in Jewish culture, the Talmud, states that the human soul dwells within the grave for some time following death. By placing stones on headstones, it symbolically keeps the soul in its permanent location, according to Rabbi David Wolpe of the Temple Sinai in Los Angeles.
According to the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, Jews do not place flowers on graves. Instead, the tradition of placing small stones is used a similar way.
The Jewish custom of Mitzvah, the religion's 613 commandments, includes the tradition of construction. By placing stones on the headstone, Jews are able to symbolically participate in this custom.
Not a Requirement
Despite many theories as to the reasons for placing the stones on headstones, the Jewish Virtual Library states that there is no official doctrine mandating the practice.
In case a rock fight breaks out between you and people by another head stone you will have ample ammunition.