Monkey Reviews

Through the Eyes of A Chimp

Monkey Reviews
December 12, 2006


USHPIZIN – Chimp celebrates Succoth

Ushpizin is the latest Chimp Flick but “ushpizin” is also a Hebrew word which means “guests”. I won’t say much about the plot except that it is a modern retelling of the ancient Abraham & Sarah Story. Succoth is the setting and if you don’t have a clue what that means, like I didn’t, it is another word for the Jewish Celebration “Feast of Tabernacles” which is the setting and backdrop of this movie. Everything that happens in the movie, events and human interchanges is intricately related to this celebration; from the minutia of preparation to the unexpected appearance of long-lost friends. Everything is part of a tapestry of sacramental meaning.

What struck me about this movie was the blatant spirituality. Blatant not in the sense of “in your face offensive” but more like unapologetic and earnest – in a good sense. Because of our recent studies in the Apostle Paul and how the Christian story relates to Judaism, this was a perfect movie pick. “Ushpizin” is a window into what it means for a spiritual Jew to relate to God. The window opens up, to the viewer, a wide expansive view onto the landscape of the intimacy between God and human. The view is not only wide but it is also very deep and I came away from this movie finally getting it. Intimacy only begins to describe it and “relationship” is not merely a descriptor. Relationship is truly what it is all about, from lamenting to rejoicing – nothing is kept from God. All thoughts, all feelings, all urges are directed towards God. Life for these people is an ongoing conversation with God, as if he truly were their soul-mate. As any good soul-mate there is both argument and heart-felt devotion, but bottom line there is a love that is rooted in the divine.

Like in the story of Abraham and Sarah, the appearance of guests is a crucial part of how the story unfolds and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the holy and the unholy, the sacred and the secular. Nothing is as it appears and even when we are disappointed or mistrustful or unfaithful, God comes through with promises we could never imagine or plan for. After all it’s not about the outcome but about the union that happens on the way – an ancient story that continues to weave in and out of reality.

It wouldn’t be Jewish without humour and a dose of eccentricity. In this way “Ushpizin” doesn’t disappoint. Even the serious task of relating to God is done with humour; after all nothing is kept from God – even the oddities and the quirks of our humanness. Another bonus is that “Ushpizin” lets you catch a glimpse into one of their many festivals and ritualized life. What a great movie this was – the Chimp highly recommends it.