Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Good Story 066: Ushpizin

Julie and Scott take leave to visit Malli and Moshe. They like to think they have more manners than the Ushpizin in this excellent film. Ushpizin (2004), written by Shuli Rand, directed by Giddi Dar.

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  1. Leah here with some clarifications. (It's pronounced like the Princess, but I had it first, actually Jacob's first wife did.)
    If you have 2 Jews, you will have at least 3 opinions, which means that the number of sects within Judaism is limitless. The Braslav Chasids are in interesting group - much less about being learned and more about the primal feelings of faith. Which is why this simple couple, husband former convict can find a place there. They remind me of a good strong Black Baptist church - a lot of witnessing, not a lot of depth of study.
    Which explains why Moshe couldn't get the stipend for his Yeshiva learning. (don't get me started, government subsidy, it is a whole big can of worms in Israel)

    Any Israeli will immediately recognize that the couple speaks what can be called - lower class street Hebrew. Although they are Ba'al Teshuva - there are few Ultra Orthodox groups that would have accepted them - class, triablism and group identity are all very alive and well and flourishing in all segments of Israeli society - sometimes even more so among the Ultra Orthodox. It's ok to be a Ba'al Teshuva but not to marry within the establishment - which is why Bratslav which is made up mostly of Ba'al Teshuva is a good fit. Which is why the neighbors aren't thrilled at all and are non accepting of the visitors.

    Israel is a crazy little country - not easy to get in and out, so for low level criminals there actually is such a thing as this leave - although it doesn't happen often.

    The Etrog - goes much deeper than a Star Wars Plate. There is a concept - Hidur Mitzvah - which means going above and beyond with a mitzvah. The 4 symbols of Sukkot (which is coming up in the middle of Sept. this year). Are the palm frond, the reed, myrtle and the Citron - which is a very specialized citrus fruit and it must have the little nob intact. The first three are cheap, but the religious put a lot Hidur Mitzvah into the etrog - getting the best and the finest. So yes, there is a big element of vanity - but being shrouded in religious practice it is a very elevated vanity.

    A very important Jewish concept is not reminding a person of their previous sins - if they have gone through a true repentance. Therefore no one would remind Moshe of his criminal past and He and Mali would never bring it up to themselves or to each other. This also applies to converts - once a person has converted you are forbidden to bring that up as a mark against them. Of course in reading the Torah in public - everyone would know, since when a man is called to the Torah, he is the son of 'father-mother'. Converts are always son of Abraham and Sarah - as the first Jewish couple.

    I grew up Zionist Orthodox, or Modern Orthodox just like the actor. He left religion and came back ultra Orthodox, I left and found my place among Conservative Jews - who are much less strict. Although I confound people when I say that I have made the choice not to follow all the mitzvot out of my own selfishness and that to a certain degree I am sinning. They try to say no - you are still a good Jew. Maybe, but Judaism isn't like spirituality - we have many requirements and my choosing not to follow everything does put me in the camp of sinners. How God will judge me I have no idea, but I'm not kidding myself that my choice is all good.

    Any other questions feel free to ask.

  2. Leah,

    Thanks very much for this! I learned quite a bit from the movie, and quite a bit from you. If I have questions, you're certainly the person to ask.

    Thank you!