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I think the letter came at the perfect time. Amir's guilt would not have been assuaged any earlier, I don't know that that kind of guilt ever goes away completely. I was surprised that Hassan spoke with Rahim so soon after the rape. It is evident that Hassan respected and trusted Rahim above most any other. To have betrayed that trust while Hassan was alive would have been reprehensible, you don't betray the trust of those you care about (or anyone for that matter). At the time Amir received the news, it was imperative that he see things the way they were.
Rahim's letter revealed that Hassan told him about the rape soon after it happened. He told Amir that he did betray his friend, but reminded him that he was only a boy at the time. He assured Amir that he had suffered from his guilt so much only because he was a good, caring person. Rahim Khan explained that it was hard for him to watch Amir vying for Baba's attention. Baba, he said, was hard on Amir only because of his own guilt. His betrayal of Ali and the fact that he could never claim Hassan as his son tortured him. Rahim Khan believed that all of Baba's charity was in atonement for his sin. Amir, he said, should learn from Baba's example and try to redeem himself as well. He said he had left money for Amir in a safety deposit box, which the key would open. He ended the letter by requesting that Amir not look for him. Amir cried reading the letter. He was ashamed that, unlike Baba, he had acted out because of his guilt rather than doing good.
In the end, Rahim Khan is the one who knows the true path to redemption. He tells Amir in his letter, "I know that in the end, God will forgive. He will forgive your father, me, and you too. I hope you can do the same. Forgive your father if you can. Forgive me if you wish. But, most important, forgive yourself." Rahim Khan understands that Amir takes pleasure in torturing himself with his guilt. As long as he is directing his remorse inwards, he cannot truly help anyone else. Only when he forgives himself and stops feeling the pain of guilt can Amir direct his full focus on repaying his debt to Hassan and Baba's debt to Ali. As he puts it, true forgiveness involves "pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night." Once Amir has stopped merely 'not wanting to have blood on his hands,' he can make use of those hands. He does just that when he teaches Sohrab about kite fighting.