Ushpizin

Rabbi Rabbs recommends this blog post on internet safety for those interested in online blogs about Orthodox Judaism.

Rabbi Rabbs writes (and this is a partial excerpt from a discussion):

I thought the movie was only so-so. Am I the only person who couldnt help but be reminded of A Stranger Amongst Us ? Remember that G-d awful flick back in the early 90s starring melanie griffith? Both movies were about criminals who infiltrated chasidic camps and how the chasidim deal with frei people and BTs. Sorry, but the parallels kept gnawing at me the whole time, and if the writers did rip off from Stranger, that is lame, because that movie sucked paint remover.

Here is what I liked most: I have eaten in a sukkah in Meah Sharim on Yom Tov, and it was amazing. Just walking down Rechov Meah Sharim on Yom Tov night is a breath taking experience, and the mad rush to buy lulavs on the streets of Geulah is a scene, too. The movie brought back some memories for me, but could have done a bit more to capture the spirit, such as showing the huge crowds dressed up in colorful Yom Tov yerushalmi garb wlaking in the street.

I have visited the Breslov shul on Rechov Meah Sharim, too.

A lot of the movie hit home because I am dealing with insane financial problems myself and there is a lot of stress in that area in terms of getting married, etc. Hearing the guy didnt have a sukkah, etc, fell right out of “A single trapped in a religion for married people” for those who recall my essay. So, I could relate to the dude.

What I liked least: It bugged me to no end that the movie was in Hebrew with English sub-titles. Those people do not speak Hebrew! They speak Yiddish for crying out loud. Maybe the BTs speak only Hebrew, but when all the lifers spoke to each other in Hebrew, I wanted to scream.

next, are we really supposed to believe that the two of them pray and receive open miracles like that? Gimme a break! If it were that easy everyone would be frum and no one would be poor. I prayed and prayed and I am still flat broke with no wife and I am close to 156 years old already. Come on!

and what was the deal with harboring criminals? is that the lesson we are supposed to learn? frummies hide known felons from authorities? not good.

I have to laugh about how the couple cries about not having a son. I cant wait to be married five years without kids! sounds awesome to me! and then the two convicts show up and even they are giving the speech: “nu, when you having kids already? there is a mitzvah to be fruitful and multiply!” LOL!

ok, that is my review…. feel encouraged to add your own below

finally, one last thig…. what is the exchange rate between the dollar and the shekel these days? He had a $1000 and bought an esrog for 1000 shkalim and still had enough for earrings, she bought new clothes (I think) and they had $100 to give the poor guy and leftover gelt to feed the convicts.

Although I could understand why you consider Ushpizin to be awesome, I am stunned that you thought Stranger was good. That flick was so typical of hollywoods misrepresentation of frumkeit. I forget the specifics now, but my friends and I back then compiled a long list of things that were incorrect according to Torah. And, you were ok with the son of the rebbe kissing a shigza? that made me want to puke. And, could they at least find Jews to play the parts? The fake payas on goyim doesnt cut it.

There are parallels.

In Stranger, Melanie Griffith is fascinated by it all and considers frumkeit just like how one of the two convicts seemed interested in it.

In stranger, the guest in their house is doing the BT thing, much like how the Moshe guy became BT.

In stranger, the BT was really a crook. In ush, the crook was thinking of being BT.

In stranger, the guest was scamming them. In ush, those two guests were scamming them.

In stranger, the guest pointed a gun at chasidim. In ush, the guests pointed a shish kabob at the chasidim.

In stranger, the cops were called and a chasid attacked the crook. In ush, the cops were called and a chasid pointed a shish kabob back at them.

In stranger, the crook had ties to the mob and was a serious criminal. In ush, the crooks had escaped from prison where they served some hard time and were dangerous criminals.

In both movies, the guests pretended to be friends in order to fascilitate their crimes.

3: It was not an open miracle that they recieved because of the prayer, it was pure luck in a situation in which it could happen. They pray EVERY day for such a miracle, and just because this is a day in which they recieved some money (which caused plenty of trouble) does not mean that it was an open miracle.

Pure luck? The guy is praying like a wild man and crescendoed just when the dude picked 35 and landed on his name. Come on! It was presented to us to believe it was an open miracle. The wife even said it herself that it was a miracle. Or maybe it was the husband, I forget.

4: They did speak yiddish in the beginning and not all citizens of places like that speak exclusively yiddish to each other.

I heard lots of Ivrit, and I am not sure which communities you hung around with, but the ones I did only spoke Yiddish.

5: He wasn’t hiding any old felons, they were old, less than reputable friends who turned out to be convicts on the run, and he wasn’t going to turn-in his old friends after he had already given them his hospitality for the holiday and since he found out later (I’m guessing their crimes weren’t especially violent or dangerous). I can’t say I blame him for that.

I personally think it was a chillul Hashem. I will illustrate my point with the following:

A couple of years ago, a member of the ding dong show who I was close with ran from the law when a warrant was issued for his arrest. He went on the lam for months into hiding. He even wound up on Americas Most Wanted. During his run from the law, he stopped off at one of the cast members homes — someone who was really good friends with him for a very long time. That person loved the guy to death, but did the right thing. Instead of letting him stay, that person kicked the dude out in the street and told them they had 10 minutes to get the f*k away before they call the cops.

That is what Moshe should have done.

6: At the time of the movie the exchange rate was >4.5 Sheks to the $. 1000$~4500 sheks.

Holy cripes! I had no idea. When I was there the rate was 1 dollar = 1.6 shekels, and I thought the gap narrowed to almost 1:1 since then, which is why I was confused by the movie. Boy was I ever wrong!

Thanks for providing that info. Now it makes sense, because the esrog only cost about $225, and that leaves a lot of money for food, clothes, etc. I just wish they made that knowledge known to the viewers.

Btw, how do you remember the rate at the time of the movie?

Those two guys were doing a long sentence. They didnt know moshe was married, and he was married 5 years already. I will assume he didnt get married the day he turned frum, either. They didnt know how frum he was. So, I will guess they were in prison close to 10 years. Now, I have no idea about sentencing in the state of israel or how inmates end up on the outside and just re-enter on their own, but I am betting they did something really bad.

Remember how they talked about the old days when they did hold-ups? These guys were armed robbers, and been in and out of jail.

They were taking Moshe for a ride. He even heard them from outside the sukkah saying they didnt care for him and his wife. This was a scam to steal food, money, a hiding place, and whatever they could steal form him.

I’ve gone through each of the “parallels” and I don’t think any of them qualify as significant parallels anymore than any given story.

Well, not only do we disagree on the specific parallels but you missed the whole point…

You got two chasidic movies. Why does either of them need criminals in them? Think about it. How often do you come into contact with criminals? Why does crime take a central theme in both? How often does violence enter into chasidic life? so why introduce it into both?

How about just a movie without any violence and without any criminals?

How about a movie about chasidim without any BTs? How about a movie about chasidim without anyone from the secular world paying a visit?

The fact that both movies involved insular communities being invaded by secular people, included criminals, violence, and BTs creates a profound set parallels that cannot be brushed away or ignored. There was no reason to have those things in those flicks, and they both did.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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