Sunday, May 03, 2009

Rejoicing Over the Defeat of the Egyptians

I have come to enjoy APM's Speaking of Faith series. Here's another little gem from another of their podcasts...

We all know the story of the Exodus, the crossing of the split-apart Red Sea on dry ground. The climax of that story comes when the Egyptian Army is engulfed and destroyed by the sea being released to collapse back upon itself.

There is apparently a Midrashic story that says at the moment the Egyptian army was engulfed and it was clearly to be destroyed, that the angels in Heaven began singing and praising God for His deliverance of Israel. But God, instead of letting the praise continue, held up His hand and stopped the angels' singing.

Why would He do that? The reason, given in the Midrash, is that God does not want rejoicing when creatures, made by His hands and at His command, suffer as did the Egyptians. I don't know if the Midrash says God sorrowed over their deaths, but He did not rejoice over it. God's value, God's care for the Creation is not diminished by the Creation's faults.

I find it interesting and somewhat arresting that we find this story in a Jewish relgious corpus. But it isn't a unique concept for the Jewish people. I have previously brought a very moving prayer to your attention, written by Holocaust survivor, that seeks blessings on enemies because of the good that came of the horror he suffered. You can find that prayer here:

This reminds me of a story in Winner's book about one of her friend's fathers. When asked what was the most important thing in life, his response was "to learn forgiveness" (or something like that - I don't have the book in front of me). Winner says that she had asked many people this same question and all had had to think, and then when answering would say two or more different things as though they wern't sure. Contrastingly, this man answered immediately and definitively - learning to forgive was the most important thing in the world.

From where did this notion of his come? How did he come to pick this virtue, and how had he come to own it so surely? The same way that prayer writer did; this man too, was a Holocaust survivor. Perhaps for his own sanity, perhaps because he had to, perhaps because he had come to know God through the suffering of the Holocaust, he had come to realize the same truth.

In forgiving - in real forgiving - it seems there is no room for rejoicing over your foe's defeat. There is only room for forgiveness.

How are you doing with that?

If you haven't yet found Speaking of Faith, their podcasts are available through iTunes. Highly recommended.

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