Sunday, January 15, 2012

Iraqi Jews Connect Weddings with Tu B'shvat

Once upon a time Jews living in the Land of Israel planted trees for babies born the previous year. Cedar trees were earmarked for boys, ensuring the infants develop into  tall, upright citizens. Girls on the other hand were assigned cyprus trees because of their grace and fragrance. On wedding days these two trees intertwined, with branches from both used to make the huppah, wedding canopy -- a theme continued on modern-day huppot.

But what about the actual connection between Tu B'Shvat, trees and weddings? Ask Iraqi Jews who call this holiday Chag Livluv HaEtzim -- Holiday of Tree Blossoming. One of their special customs is taking the bachelorettes of their community to the forest and assigning a tree to each as a "husband." One month later they return to the forest, checking which trees have begun to blossom. These symbols of budding romances mark upcoming marriages during the coming year.

You can say this custom is quaint or sweet, but let's put it in today's ecological terms. After all, Tu B'Shvat is the original Arbor Day and by Iraqi Jewish lights one could say that in order to protect the environment, they wisely husband their energy.

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