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9 Movies to Watch for Sukkot and Simchat Torah

Photo Courtesy of Yair Qedar

Photo Courtesy of Yair Qedar

Jewish Girl Fall wouldn’t be complete without Sukkot and Simchat Torah. These Festivals take place after the High Holy Days. Sukkot is a Torah-commanded holiday, and is considered one of the pilgrimage festivals. It celebrates the harvest. On a more spiritual level, spending time in the sukkah serves as a reminder of the impermanence of material things and a reminder of the importance of hospitality. Waving the Four Species is also a crucial part of this Festival’s observance. 

Simchat Torah marks the conclusion of the annual cycle of reading Torah. It’s a time to reflect on the joy of Torah, and show that joy by dancing. This is also the perfect time to recall the role of converts into the Jewish community, and that all of us were present at Sinai to receive Torah. Here are some movies that can be watched as part of your Sukkot and Simchat Torah celebrations. 

Bialik – King of the Jews

Photo Courtesy of Yair Qedar

Bialik – King of the Jews tells the story Chaim Nachman, one of the most famous poets of the Jewish world. The movie combines animation and live footage to reflect on Nachman’s life and work. It chronicles Nachman’s journey from a young boy in a shtetl to one of the most prolific Jewish artists ever known. 

Nachman’s words reflect Torah itself, which makes this an appropriate watch for this time of year. His meditations on Judaism and the Jewish people fit with themes of the holiday. Though his life and work pre-dated the formation of Israel, his lasting impact on the culture is still felt today. 

The Prince of Egypt

Photo Courtesy of Dreamworks

Dreamworks went hard with The Prince of Egypt. It’s a refreshing take on the life of Moses. The Torah leaves a lot to interpretation when it comes to this important figure. The artwork is breathtaking, and the story is enthralling. 

You might be thinking, isn’t this a Passover story? You’d be right. However, while the events detailed in the story predate the Torah itself, this is still an important movie about Jewish identity, and celebrating the freedom that Judaism holds so dear. 

Doing Jewish: A Story from Ghana

Photo Courtesy of McIntyre Media

This documentary spotlights a Jewish community in Ghana. The Jewish community of Sefwi Wiawso, Ghana has been practicing their faith for generations, and have only recently been discovered. This movie explores the daily life of this community, as well as their history.

This documentary is an excellent example of art that illustrates the expansiveness of the Jewish people. The focus on traditions that have endured and sustained so many for generations. As we reflect on the beauty of Torah, as well as the four species, it’s beautiful to see just how wide and diverse the Jewish community is. 

Sukkah City

Photo Courtesy of Joshua Foer

Sukkah City follows author Joshua Foer as he starts a Sukkah design competition. This became a massive art installation in the middle of New York. The movie explores the artistic vision that constructing a sukkah can take. 

It’s pretty self-explanatory why this is a perfect movie to watch during Sukkot. It’s a meditation on the creativity and detail that is required to build a sukkah anywhere. This may also serve as inspiration if you are looking to change up your sukkah design.

Encirclements

Photo Credit: Lee Gilat

Encirclements tells the story of Aharon, a thirteen year old boy, who is selected to carry the Torah around his neighborhood during the ‘Simchat Torah’ celebrations. Soon, however, his family must confront old tensions that come to the surface.

The fact that the movie revolves around Simach Torah celebrations makes it perfect for this time of year. The Torah’s beauty and impact is clear throughout the story. Additionally, it’s a reflection on family, and the innocence of childhood in approaching the Divine. 

Sukkot in Warsaw

Photo Courtesy of Dmitriy Khavin

This short film chronicles the Jewish community living in Warsaw. Specifically, it chronicles Sukkot celebrations, as the community reflects on the legacy of the Holocaust in Poland. The community speaks about their continued commitment to Judaism, even in the face of the horrors of the Holocaust. 

This is a portrait of Jewish resiliency. The community is given a chance to showcase Jewish joy and celebration, even in the shadow of the Holocaust that remains. This community has found a way to adapt and persevere in the modern world. 

Keeping the Faith

Ben Stiller And Edward Norton Star In “Keeping The Faith.” (Photo By Getty Images, Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures)

Keeping the Faith is Edward Norton’s directorial debut. It tells the story of a rabbi and a priest, best friends since childhood, and a love triangle that gets wildly out of control. It briefly looks at the challenges and pain of interfaith relationships, and the lengths people will go to for love. 

This is another example of a story that speaks to the expansiveness of the Jewish community. Ben Stiller’s Rabbi Jake Schram clearly has so much love for the Torah, and brings that to his congregation, his friends, and his family. His is a welcoming congregation, inviting all to share in this joy. 

Ushpizin

Photo Courtesy of Gidi Dar.

This 2004 Israeli drama tells the story of Hasidic baalei teshuva. They are childless and impoverished, and trying to prepare for Sukkot. The family finds solace in their faith, even as they have fallen on hard times. 

This story compels viewers to consider the true meaning of Sukkah, even when essentials to celebrate the holidays are seemingly out of reach. It’s clear how much Hasidic teaching and spirituality still mean so much to so many. It’s a rare, enthralling look inside this ultra-Orthodox community. 

Honorable Mention: The Holiday

Yes, this romantic comedy is unabashedly a Christmas movie. However, it’s deeper premise actually makes it a perfect movie for Sukkot. It is all about opening one’s home, and welcoming new experiences moving forward into a new year. For word play enthusiasts, Sukkot was originally referred to as HaChag, or literally, “The Holiday”. 

What movies are on your Sukkot and Simchat Torah watchlist? Leave a comment below!

 

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