Written and directed by Shuli Rand, Ushpizin is a story about a poor couple living in an ultra-orthodox Jewish community who learn, through the trials of life, the meaning of faith and trust in God.
While the film is pleasurable artistically, and I appreciate the opportunity to peek into the world of orthodox Judaism, what really excited me about this movie is its authentic and mature treatment of faith.
The director’s understanding of faith is a sharp contrast from what is popular in the evangelical community. For the evangelical community (or at least that part of the evangelical community with a size-able marketing budget!), faith is something that is tested, tallied, and rewarded with a generic,though often material, "blessing."
In Ushpizin, we begin with a consideration of the idea of "test" as the actors experiencing frustrations and are forced to wrestle with adversity. However, as the movie progresses, we are gradually brought BEYOND the concept of testing. The audience is brought to the conclusion that, though there are events in life which may be challenging, and also events with may be joyful, these are merely circumstances resulting from living within this world. Faith is not a subjective means to an end, but is a way of life for a community which recognizes it’s position in relation to the Creator. God is not to be served in order to avoid catastrophe or to receive a "blessing." God is to be served — and worshiped — because God is God.