FOR SEVERAL SHABBOSIM in a row, I’d noticed a beautiful young woman sitting on the right side of the women’s section, balancing an extremely large Artscroll siddur (prayerbook) on her lap, and an even larger Chumash (Pentateuch). Like most of us, she knew the service almost by heart. The Torah reading and subsequent Haftarah reading is always sung aloud, and we follow the written words with our fingers in the books.
After the service there is a kiddush consisting of liquor, cakes, drinks and other snacks. It is where we mingle as a spiritual community, make new friends, touch base with old ones and invite strangers who are without a Sabbath meal to join us or, perhaps, find a seat at a stranger’s Sabbath table. The kiddush provides wonderful opportunities for singles of all ages to meet within the protective walls of an all-embracing community. I cannot begin to count the numbers of couples I’ve met who’d first seen one another in shul on a Shabbos morning.
The kiddush is where David first laid eyes on Shira, and while she did not exactly ‘see’ him, she sensed his sincerity. He poured her some cola, selected the most-chocolatey piece of rugelach, and laughed at her ability to chuckle at herself He hoped he wasn’t speaking out of place but, indeed, she didn’t ‘look’ blind and she said, ‘thank you’ because she got it. She explained that there was still some vision left, it came and went in degrees, occasionally negatively-affected by her moods and that there was, at the present time, no cure. Perhaps as a warning to reign in his heart, she shared that she’d soon be totally blind, and had no regrets other than bemoaning that her vision might not last long enough to experience the beauty of Europe. They took their drinks and cakes to the courtyard and sat on a bench. He spoke of his family in America, a love of sports; she appeared passionate about her work with children with special needs. After a while Shira bade David a ‘gutten shabbos’ and joined her parents for the walk home.
From the other end of the social hall, her mother, Chaya, had witnessed the opening scenes of this eventual courtship with equal measures of hope and concern. What if this young man, like the one before him, broke her heart? To be fair, Shira had also rejected several matches because she felt they were based on co-disabilities, and this was offensive to her. But was Shira practicing discrimination herself by rejecting men with disabilities as minor as she claimed her own to be?
In the end it is all moot, because David dated Shira and Shira fell in love with David, and one evening, he placed a beautiful ring on her finger and asked her to spend the rest of her life as his partner. The wedding was a love-filled tear-fest, that saw the bride dancing and hugging and thanking everyone who had been part of her journey.
And, after the seven days of celebrations called sheva brachot, David handed his kallah (bride) an envelope with several folded pages that outlined the itinerary of their magical trip to Europe. In the dead of winter, while Shira could still squint in just the right light, and by holding her head at a certain angle, they saw the magnificent greenery of Scotland, the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc Du Triomphe and Big Ben.
Sometimes the gift of physically perfect vision is granted to those who simply can’t see what’s important, while other, limited-vision individuals are blessed with eagle-like acuity.
Perhaps it boils down to the color of the lenses.
New York native Andrea Simantov has lived in Jerusalem since 1995. She is a contributing write to Jlife magazine.