A Conflict of Interest

March 14, 2017 at 11:56 AM , , ,

“…And now, if you forgive their sin… but if not, erase me now from your book that you have written…” –  Shemot 32:32

‬‫וְעַתָּה אִם תִּשָּׂא חַטָּאתָם וְאִם אַיִן מְחֵנִי נָא מִסִּפְרְךָ אֲשֶׁר כָּתָבְתָּ – שמות לב, לב

Moshe’s life was defined by two passions: his passion for the Torah and his passion for Bnei Yisrael.

On the one hand, Moshe was “the lawgiver” (Devarim 33:21), the perfect conduit through which G-d communicated His Torah to humanity; hence, the Torah’s designation as “The Torah of Moshe” (Malachi 3:22).

In his other role, Moshe was the faithful shepherd of Bnei Yisrael. His devotion to his nation was such that Rashi (Bamidbar 21:21) comments that Moshe and the Jewish people are truly synonymous, “Moshe is Yisrael, and Yisrael is Moshe.”


Moshe’s two passions clashed, however, when Bnei Yisrael rebelled against the Torah’s most basic principle and worshipped the Golden Calf. As a result of their transgression, G-d threatened to wipe Bnei Yisrael out and to start a new nation from Moshe alone. But Moshe pleaded with G-d to spare Bnei Yisrael, ultimately saying to G-d, “If You will not forgive them, erase me now from Your Torah”—meaning, Moshe’s attachment to Bnei Yisrael ran even deeper than his association with the Torah.

In doing so, Moshe secured forgiveness for Bnei Yisrael and saved them from devastation. By expressing his unbreakable attachment to Bnei Yisrael, Moshe evoked in G-d as well His affection as well for the Jewish people that transcends even His oneness with the Torah. By rekindling G-d’s love for Bnei Yisrael, Moshe caused G-d to accept and forgive them, …and grant them another opportunity to keep His Torah.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 21, pp. 174-177


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