Three years ago, the Jewish holidays fell out on a Wednesday night, so that Sukkot and Simchat Torah were each three-day holidays: Thursday, Friday, and then straight into Shabbos. This year it worked out the very same way on the Hebrew calendar, so it was easy for me to compare the holiday this past week to the one I experienced three years ago.
You see, for most observant Jews, Passover is the undisputed holiday of redemption. For me, however, that holiday is Simchat Torah. For it was on that very day that God reached His Hand down from Heaven and granted me my personal freedom.
I can say that now, confidently, three years later. But back then, on that rainy, dreary Friday afternoon, as the men danced with the Torah in shul and Jewish families everywhere gathered around their tables, I didn’t realize I was being redeemed. I felt like I was going through hell.
Freedom, I’ve found, doesn’t always feel amazing. Sometimes, it can actually feel like shit.
You can’t possibly know that you are being saved if you aren’t even aware that you are in prison.
And that’s exactly what an abusive marriage is. It is a prison that you don’t ever want to leave, because you have no idea what the outside world looks like. The very idea of an outside world is so much more frightening than any amount of horror and pain inside the prison can ever be.
But God knew I deserved better. And that’s why, when I brought my ex-husband the “wrong food” from shul after walking in the pouring rain to get it for him that Simchat Torah day, God let him get mad enough to leave the home we were staying in, take the few things I had brought with me for the three-day holiday and attempt to take my daughter as well, drive away and never look back.
And as much as I struggled and fought back against the oppressive, stifling freedom, God knew better, and He made sure that there was no way I would ever be able to return back to the prison I had been in.
This year, as I sat in the very same shul I had gone to three years ago, I thanked God for my liberty, for every single day that had passed since that Simchat Torah in which I am able to live my life without fear, without worrying about what I will say or do this time that will push him over the edge.
I sat listening to the singing, heard the beautiful prayers, and watched my daughter’s glowing face as she sat on the shoulders of her holy grandfather, dancing around the Torah. And I thanked God, not only for granting me my freedom, but for finally making it taste as sweet as redemption should.