Who Should Attend an Unveiling?

We are planning the unveiling for my father in about a month. Is it important that the entire family be there? I would have to fly several of my grown children in at considerable expense. Likewise, we would like my uncle to attend, but the trip might be difficult for him.

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

I’m sorry for the loss of your father. May his soul be granted an aliyah (ascension) in Heaven and may he be a meilitz yosher (worthy advocate) for the entire family.

The truth is, the entire custom of having an unveiling is relatively recent, perhaps even an American phenomenon. Although there is an obligation to have a tombstone (matzeiva), in Europe it would often be done by the synagogue beadle (shamash) by himself, without even the family present.

Today, it has become a much larger affair, and it’s appropriate to follow the current custom for family and close friends to come for the event. (See this past response for the entire recommended procedure.) However, it does not have to be viewed as an obligatory event. If it’s difficult for relatives to arrive, it is not critical – although it is certainly a good idea if it would help them feel closure over the loss.

(Source: Igrot Moshe Y.D. IV 61.)

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