A Model

February 28, 2018 at 4:11 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

When Bnei Yisrael rebelled against the Torah’s most basic principle and worshipped the Golden Calf, 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 them, ultimately saying to G-d, “If You will not forgive them, erase me now from Your Torah.” The reason behind Moshe’s demand, Rashi explains, was “so that they will not say about me that I was worthy of asking for mercy on their behalf.”

Why was Moshe’s major concern at that moment that it should not be said of him that he was not worthy of asking for mercy for Bnei Yisrael? As Moshe considered the possibility that G-d might not forgive Bnei Yisrael, was the question of how future generations would think of him of any significance?!

Pencil erasing a mistake

The answer is that Moshe’s concern was not his legacy; his concern was that future generations might reach mistaken conclusions about the extents a person must go in his love for his fellow Jew.

Moshe’s love for Bnei Yisrael exceeded even the Torah’s command to “love your fellow as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18). For the defining feature of Moshe’s “self” was the Torah that he brought to this world—“the Torah of Moshe” (Malachi 3:22). Yet, his love for Bnei Yisrael was such that he was ready to sacrifice his association with the Torah, his “self,” if G-d would not forgive Bnei Yisrael and spare them from devastation.

Moshe therefore asked that G-d erase his name from the Torah if He would not forgive Bnei Yisrael. Moshe wanted no one to ever mistakenly think that the reason Moshe was unsuccessful in saving Bnei Yisrael was because his devotion to his fellow Jews did not exceed his love for “himself”—in his case, his connection to the Torah. Even if he could not ultimately convince G-d to forgive Bnei Yisrael, Moshe wanted to serve as an example for all future generations that you must be willing to sacrifice even “yourself” out of love for your fellow Jew.

—Likutei Sichos, vol. 21, pp. 175-180


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