First things first. Who and what can be forgiven?
When an injured party perceives genuine sorrow and a desire to repent for misdeeds that have been done by one who has some how hurt another, the wronged party can more easily justify offering or extending forgiveness to the wrong doer and, thereby, begin his or her own internal process of letting go of the anger and vengeful feelings that he or she may, and more than likely, will be experiencing until such
divestiture of angst can be allowed to happen by his or her own internal monitor of self-defense; which may be ones conscience or ones sense of morality but is surely the thing inside all of us that makes us wary of putting our hand on any another stove after touching a hot stove. Better safe then sorry, is the overarching category under which this natural feeling of self-defense might be filed.
So, forgiving is only one side of the emotional equation that must come into, or, be brought into balance before the letting go of ones fears and feelings of distrust can begin. It takes much energy to remain vigilant and, though one would prefer to be able to relax and enjoy life without having to stay in the "en guard" position, to borrow a phrase from the sport of fencing, to do so without knowing or
believing that our attacker is through attacking us, would be imprudent; foolish; and, even self destructive.
The 400 years of the Jewish people's bondage in Egypt started to come to an end, in one sense, during the Exodus, but the constant pursuit of the Egyptians all the way to the Sea, where they were destroyed, had a negative effect on the newly freed people causing them to fear almost everything and everyone in sight, and rightly so. There was, after all, absolutely no expression of remorse on behalf of
their former enslavers; no, they were chasing them to re-enslave them because Pharaoh had changed his mind; OK, the Lord had hardened Pharaoh's heart; but in either case, the Jews were back in play as the free labor source that they had been for so long.
Once Pharaoh and his army were drowned in the Sea, it would appear that there was no longer anything to fear. The threat of attack was gone. Freedom could be enjoyed fully and openly one would think.
But, that was not the case. What was the case? Well, the newly freed Jews were lead to the Land of their ancestry, then referred to as Canaan, i.e. the Land of the Canaanites, and were told to first scout it out to get the lay of the land as it were, and then, based on the knowledge gleaned from the scouts, to attack the Canaanites and, with the help o the Lord, capture Canaan for the Jews. The spies, for the
most part, were a disappointment. Only two told of a Land flowing with milk and honey and one that could be captured with the help of the Lord. The other ten told of giants and pending doom. The Jews believed the ten naysayers and cried out that they would have been better off if they had remained in Egypt as slaves.
In deed, it was as if they were still in Egypt because even in light of having seen the God of their forefathers perform fabulous deed after fabulous deed, they remained culturally, if not physically, enslaved and could not let go of that mindset. Freedom could never be theirs. They were doomed to remain so effected by their slave existence that unlearning those ways and mindsets was an impossibility
for them. They were punished, as it was for having rejected the Lord as being able to guide them to victory over the Canaanites, by being sentenced, as it was, to live out their days wondering around in the desert for the next forty years when the last of that slave generation died out. Then, the children of those slaves, the Jews who had not actually known first hand the feel of an Egyptian whiplash, or seen the punishing labors performed by their forebears, or witnessed any other part of the slave existence directly, then, and only then, could Jews appreciate freedom.
It might be asked, why did the Lord even attempt to allow the Jews who had experienced slavery directly to scout out the land of the Canaanites, later to be known as the Land of Israel and as the Holy Land, when He knew all too well that they were incapable of rising to that challenge? Perhaps He wanted to use the experience as a kind of acid test; and, to draw, you should pardon the expression, a line in the sand to show just where slavery ended and freedom began. Perhaps.
But, what it pointed out for all Jews who came after was that you really don't know what someone else is going through until, as it is said, you walk a mile in their moccasins. "We were slaves in Egypt" is how the song goes. We say it with conviction to pass on to the next generation what the last of the Jews who actually did serve as slaves in Egypt must have been saying until the last of their numbers finally died in the desert; that the Egyptians really did do the things we say they did; they really did oppress us as we say they did, they really did kill the first born on that awful day as we say they did; they did it all as it is said.
There is a similar thing happening in our own day with regard to the survivors of the Holocaust, who are at last and before it is too late, telling their stories, lest the stories be forgotten, or worse, remain untold, and lest the naysayers of the day phew phew their stories and discount them right into oblivion.
It is for us to continue to tell the stories of the slavery in Egypt and of all similar atrocities and to do so as if we were actually there so that we can know and remember that to a man, there was not a smidgen of repentance on the part of the Egyptians for what they had done to the Jews and that letting go of the wariness learned from that enslavement would be unwise, dangerous and ill advised. Forgiveness is
due and letting go can begin only when repentance has been done. Not before.