Sunday, May 21, 2006

postheadericon Ushpizin (Hebrew movie) 2004

I had the good fortune to watch "Ushpizin"(meaning Holy guests),a truly heart-warming Israeli comedy, and I have come away with the greatest respect for the Hasidic Jews and the good and holy lives they are intent on leading.

Here is the synopsis from Odeon Films:

Moshe (Shuli Rand) and Mali (Michal Bat-Sheva Rand), a poor and childless Orthodox couple, find themselves penniless on the eve of the Jewish holy day of Succoth (the temporary dwellings religious Jews stay in during the festival to commemorate the time of the Exodus, and remind the devout that this life, too, is temporary.) They pray for assistance from the Lord and the impossible happens : Moshe and Mali are the beneficiaries of an unexpected charitable donation. God has taken pity on them, or so it seems, until two escaped convicts show up on their doorstep. Worried the visitors may be messengers of God, the couple follow the custom of receiving guests for the holy day and extend their hospitality. They soon learn God works in mysterious ways as their faith is put to the ultimate test when the convicts bring chaos into their gentle community. Offering an authentic and unique look at the inside of the Orthodox Jewish world, Ushpizin, is a heart-warming and humourous drama exploring the powers faith.

According to, this movie was groundbreaking in its sympathetic insider depiction of Jewish ultra-Orthodox Jerusalem and it represents the first collaborative effort between Israel's religious and secular communities (Critically acclaimed Israeli actor Shuli Rand, who gave up his wildly successful career to return to religion nine years ago, wrote the script and plays Moshe). The ultra-orthodox don't go to the movies, let alone participate in productions, but Shuli Rand's participation in the movie, with the agreement of his rabbi, meant us having an authenitc look at the Hasidic Jews. Stipulations on release included no screenings on the Sabbath; many religious Jews illegally downloaded the movie from the web rather than go to the cinema at all, leading to a rabbinical e-plea that all felonious perps should send money to the production company as compensation.

I have always been fascinated by the Haredi or Ultra-Orthodox Jews. Sure, there are other groups in the world that hem their members in with many restrictions, like the Hutterites and Mennonites in North America, and then, there's Iran and the Wahabi sect of Saudi Arabia, but what makes the Haredi Jews so unique is they are carrying on their fierce cultural war right in the midst of secular life, in busy metropolitans like Jerusalem, New York and Tel Aviv. Also, their numbers are growing rapidly because of their high birth rate and the extremely low drop-out rate among their children. Although I'd like to be open-minded about their beliefs, from what I have read, so much of their thinking is based on nothing superstition. Also, according to Bronwyn Drainie's book "My Jerusalem" many of them are obsessed with a form of "knowledge" known as gematria, which is an elaborate number game played with the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet.

This is a review in progress...


Rosemary Esehagu said...

It sounds like a movie I wouldn't mind seeing.

Lotus Reads said...

You know what, Rosemary, I think you will really enjoy this movie. I came away with a fresh perspective of what it means to re-dedicate one's life to God. It also got me thinking of how special it is to be able to live in a community where everyone has the same beliefs as you do. But then again, if you really want to build character you have to test yourself by living in the world and yet learning not be of it. Living in a religious community where all temptations are removed might just be a little too easy.

Guinness_Girl said...

LOTUS!!! I can't believe it never occurred to me to look at your profile and see if you had a personal blog in addition to your reading one!

I can't wait to peruse your posts.


Rosemary Esehagu said...

Hello Lotus,

Yes, I agree with you that "living in a religious community where all temptations are removed might just be a little too easy." Besides, it smells a bit like selfishness and haughtiness. If you believe you have stumbled upon the golden way of living, share it with others who care to listen!

Susan in Italy said...

This film sounds compelling and even potentially transformative/subversive in that it's a filmic testament in support of a community that bans film. I wonder what the star's motives were?

Evidently Garrison Keillor of The Prairie Home Companion (no a film too) grew up in a Chriatian fundamentalist group. Clearly now he no longer practices.

Sobia said...

Hi! Thanks for visiting my blog! Love yours! :)

booklogged said...

Thanks for letting me know about your other blog. I've enjoyed reading several of your posts. Will be back to read more. Did you buy or rent this movie? I doubt that our local blockbuster in a small Utah town will have it, I may have to order it on line. I really enjoy studying religions of the world.

Jill said...

Interesting blog and thanks for the movie advice. I think that Jewish culture is fascinating.