Most communities have a custom to visit a Beis Hachaim at some point between the beginning of Elul and Yom Kippur. Several halachic sources mention that one should try to go specifically on Erev Rosh Hashanah. Some go to graves of their own forebears, while others visit kivrei tzaddikim. The reason for this practice is multifold; it is an opportunity to evoke Divine mercy in the name of the departed as well as a reminder of our own mortality, as we ourselves stand for judgment in the Heavenly court.
How much more so does this compound our shock and pain in hearing of the desecration of 40 kevarim — in a single chelkah — on Har Hazeisim, one of the oldest and most precious of Jewish burial sites?
We must not let ourselves get caught up in politics and news details. Who did it? How should security be increased? There is a stronger message for us to hear, for such an event to occur on Rosh Hashanah, of all days.
There is additional purpose in the crowds of believing Jews that flock to cemeteries in anticipation of the Yamim Nora’im. Over and over, in our tefillos, we evoke zechus avos, the merits of the past generations. We ask Hashem that if our own teshuvah is insufficient, the merit of those that came before us should serve as a means of protection.
For us to be able, in good conscience, to ask Hakadosh Baruch Hu to inscribe us for a year of life in the zechuyos of our ancestors, we must be able to say that we are doing our utmost to protect their memories. That we appreciate them — not only as a source of protection, but also inspiration.
The most fundamental element of this obligation starts with ensuring that we are doing all we can to preserve the sanctity and dignity of their only remaining earthly presence, their kevarim.