In Jerusalem's orthodox neighborhoods, it's Succoth, seven days celebrating life's essentials in a sukkot, a temporary shack of both deprivation and hospitality. A devout couple, Moshe and Mali, married nearly five years and childless, are broke and praying for a miracle. Suddenly, miracles abound: a friend finds Moshe a sukkot he says is abandoned, Moshe is the beneficiary of local charitable fundraising, and two escaped convicts arrive on Moshe and Mali's doorstep in time to be their ushpizin - their guests. The miracles then become trials. Rabbinical advice, absolution, an effort to avoid anger, and a 1000-shekel citron figure in Moshe's dark night of the soul.
Review by New York Times
Questions For Discussion
- Have you ever wanted to “be a better person” (perhaps following the way of Christ more intentionally, or living a Torah life more devoutly)? How did you respond to difficulties you encountered?
- Moshe and Mali related to God as if God were a person. In what ways is this like or not like your own prayer life?
- Can you think of any biblical stories about strangers?
- Is Moshe a good man? (Or is Mali a good woman?) Why or why not?
- Moshe wanted to understand his growing troubles as stemming from a deception: their sukkah was stolen. How is this a helpful or not helpful path when we face trouble?
- How would describe the movie's characters in terms of their stage of faith?
- What made Eliahu change his opinion of Moshe's character?
- What biblical stories does the movie remind you of?
- Welcoming the stranger is a laudable virtue. How do you respond to strangers coming into your life? What can help us when we face its difficulties?
- Peel off the symbolic layers of the lemon.
- Which character did you find yourself identifying with? Why?
- The skeptic within might conclude that religious belief is as fickle as the faith embodied in Moshi and Mali. How do you respond?
Interesting tidbit from rotten tomatoes summary:
"Ushpizin was scripted by leading man Shuli Rand, who is in real life an ultra-Orthodox Jew and demanded a number of conditions before agreeing to participate in the making of the film (such as the producers agreeing to never show the picture on the Sabbath)."