West End Movie Group

Stories of our Lives

© 2011 Linda Tiessen-Wiebe Contact Me



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

  1. 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?

  2. 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?

  3. Can you think of any biblical stories about strangers?

  4. Is Moshe a good man? (Or is Mali a good woman?) Why or why not?

  5. 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?

  6. How would describe the movie's characters in terms of their stage of faith?

  7. What made Eliahu change his opinion of Moshe's character?

  8. What biblical stories does the movie remind you of?

  9. 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?

  10. Peel off the symbolic layers of the lemon.

  11. Which character did you find yourself identifying with? Why?

  12. 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)."
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