My husband and I went on a blind date. Well, this was actually our second blind date – I am not referring to our first one, when we met in 2005.
Imagine the following scene: You are sitting in a restaurant and have just placed your order with the waitress. After a few minutes, you hear the footsteps of your server approaching. The next thing you know, she bumps into you, poking your eye with the glass. Water splashes on your face.
Rather than feeling upset at the waitress, you feel compassion for her and apologize profusely for being in her way. You even feel gratitude towards your server for trying her best.
No, you are not trying to impress your date. And yes, you behavior sounds angelic and even impossible – unless, of course, the server is blind and you are sitting in a simulated blind restaurant.
As my husband and I stood in the lounge waiting for our server to escort us into the seating area, the manager of the facility ran through a few quick rules. We had to shut off our cell phones entirely. We were not even able to put the phone on vibrate mode as that might still cause a small light to flash, thereby ruining the entire experience. Before we went with our server, he cautioned that if the darkness was too overwhelming, we should let our server know, and they would escort us back out to the fully lit lounge so that we could recoup. I did not understand what he meant, but I politely gave him a “smile and nod.” I saw no reason to expect that I would not feel fine.
After we confirmed that we were ready to enter, our blind server came to greet us, then take us into a completely dark sitting area. As we walked in, the darkness immediately shocked our senses. We had to walk in a train-like formation, each person holding onto the other. We were suddenly acutely aware of every sound in the room. Never before had we paid attention to how the fabric of the tablecloth felt; never before had surrounding voices felt so distinct. It was amazing to truly understand how much we rely on each of our senses.
In order to safely seat us, our server brought one hand of mine to the chair and the other hand to the table. I did not want her to leave me just yet. I wanted to get more comfortable with my unknown surroundings. In order to find the second glass of water that she brought to the table, she placed the glass at the corner of the table and slowly guided my hand towards the glass. Bringing the glass to my lips to take a sip was another challenge.
Throughout the night, I repeatedly tried to visually escape the room and find light but there was none. It was complete darkness. I began to feel dizzy and even short of breath. The all-consuming black refused to let up. As a person with visual abilities, my closest experience to such complete darkness is while I sleep. During waking hours, I rarely experience pure darkness. Even at night time, I benefit from light given off by modern technology: street lamps, traffic lights, billboards, etc. Sighted people never experience total darkness.
My husband and I learned that night from our waitress that those who are entirely blind do not even see the color black. Most possess no visual receptors, so they experience nothing at all.
We left the restaurant humbled and grateful. That night enabled me to formulate the difference between talking about an event on one hand and experiencing it on the other. Merely talking about an event is superficial at best. One of my favorite quotes that is posted on the wall of my children’s school says: “More than people remember what you teach or say, they remember how you made them feel.”
The holiday of Passover is all about feeling and remembering. There is an age old custom of acting out the Exodus from Egypt. The point of this custom is to remind us of the miracles that G-d performed for the Jewish people at that time. When we internalize this experience, we will develop a great sense of appreciation for all that G-d does for us in our daily lives. However, it is very difficult to relate to the Ten Plagues in the 21st century. Fortunately, this “blind date” gave me a taste of the plague of darkness. In turn, my level of gratitude towards G-d increased.
Every night at dinner with my children, I try to discuss something that we are grateful for. I’m sure that in the past, I have mentioned eyesight. Merely saying that I am grateful for sight pales in comparison to experiencing life without sight, even for only a short period of time. It is the element of experience that Passover comes to teach us every year. Each Jew relives the Exodus at the seder table on the night of Passover. We do this by not only talking about it, but by involving as many senses as possible.
It is hard to pay attention and feel connected to “The Experience” throughout the entire seder. If we can try to connect to one part and feel the depth of the experience, it will be a springboard to improving our sense of gratitude for all that we have in our lives. This is the road to our own personal exodus.
May we all merit complete salvation, communally and personally, speedily in our days!