When I was five years old, I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP).
The disease runs in my family and causes me to lose my peripheral vision progressively over time. It’s now like looking through a tiny straw. RP also causes me to have night blindness and severe sensitivity to light.
Despite knowing about the severity of my blindness, I refused to advocate for myself and use my cane for twenty-four years of my life. The most challenging part was not the disability itself, but the mental and emotional trauma that came along with it.
So how did I get to a place of self-love and acceptance?
My connection to Judaism and my Jewish community have played a significant role. When I first began using my cane, the Jewish world accepted me with open arms. My colleagues and friends not only included me, but they embraced me and my story as a gift.
One day, a friend of mine reached out with an invitation to write a song to what many people consider a challenging prayer. In most prayer books, the blessing is translated as “Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe, who opens the eyes of the blind.” With this translation, it can often sound as though God is miraculously giving eyesight back to the blind.” As I took on the challenge of writing this piece, I sought out the help of an Israeli friend, who taught me that this translation isn’t entirely accurate. He taught me that the verb Pokei’ach refers specifically to the opening and closing of one’s eyelids. Pokei’ach does not refer to the opening and closing of anything else.
This would mean a more accurate translation is “Blessed are You, Ruler of the Universe, who opens the eyelids of the blind.” This got me thinking… what is an eyelid, and what purpose does it serve?
An eyelid is a curtain. It is the thing that blocks the light from entering into our lives. And, it is our choice to have them open or closed. This blessing is not about people who are physically blind, but who are choosing to close their eyelids to the beauty that surrounds them. This blessing is an opportunity to open ourselves up to the beautiful vision that we all possess, and that we have the choice to either use or ignore in our lives.
What you are about to see is the music video for my interpretation of this blessing, a song I call “Blind”. It is a song that speaks to the beauty that lives within all of us, despite any physical barriers or disabilities that we may have. The music video shows the viewer what the world looks like through my eyes. Despite it being a limited view, what I feel and perceive of the world has never felt larger and more expansive. I have not only come to accept my blindness, but love it.