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In this week's parsha the nation of Israel commit the grave sin of the Golden Calf.
This sin was so serious that the Gemara (Sanhedrin, 102a) states: "There is no punishment that comes upon Israel which does not have in it some retribution for the sin of the golden calf."
Once Moshe descended the mountain and became aware of their sin he went to seek forgiveness from Hashem on behalf of the nation.
The Torah (Shemos, 32;32) states: "And now, if You would but bear their sin! - but if not, erase me now from Your book that you have written."
Rashi (32;32) clarifies that Moshe was requesting to be removed from the entire Torah. The reasoning behind this, he explains, was "so that they should not say about me that I was not worthy enough to seek mercy (for the nation of Israel)."
Why did Moshe tell Hashem to erase him from the whole Torah if He doesn't forgive the nation of Israel for the sin of the Golden Calf? Was he trying to threaten Hashem? Why did he chance such a terrible punishment?
Additionally, why does Rashi (32;32) say that Moshe wanted to be erased from the whole Torah "so that people shouldn't say he wasn't worthy to seek mercy for nation of Israel"-what does that mean? How could it be that Moshe, the humblest person in the world (see: Bamidbar, 12;3), was suddenly so worried about his reputation?
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig explains that there are 2 different types of messengers. Some messengers simply hand over a message from one to another (e.g. a mailman), whereas others "play a role" in the message, so to speak. Moshe's job wasn't to simply say over to the nation everything that was related to him from Hashem. Rather, he was also given the power to affect the manner in which it was repeated (nicely vs. harshly, clearly vs. complicated, etc.). As a result, Moshe was responsible to give over everything from Hashem in the proper manner and therefore had the right to fix his teachings by seeking forgiveness for the nation of Israel. Moshe was telling Hashem that if He doesn't accept his prayer then that means that he wasn't "part of the messages" in which he constantly gave over to the nation. Rather, he was simply the "delivery boy." If Moshe was simply the delivery boy then Moshe told Hashem that he might as well be erased from the whole Torah-why? Because then he really wasn't needed for the betterment of the nation...Hashem could have used anyone else to relate all of his teachings to the nation of Israel. Thus, Moshe wasn't threatening Hashem by telling him to erase him from the entire Torah--rather, he was simply doing his duty, for he was responsible for all their actions as he was their teacher.
Additionally, I think we could explain that Moshe didn't want the nation of Israel to think that there are times when something cannot be accomplished through prayer. Meaning, Moshe wanted the future generations to know that even during the tough times, anything could be accomplished through prayer. For this reason Moshe wanted his name to be erased from the whole Torah "so that people shouldn't say he wasn't worthy to seek mercy for the nation of Israel." Moshe was teaching a key lesson: There is no limit to the connection that one could establish with Hashem through prayer. Therefore, Moshe told Hashem to erase him from the whole Torah if He doesn't listen to his prayers because the whole message he wanted to send out after his death is that one's connection with Hashem is limitless. Thus, we see that Moshe wasn't showing arrogance or concern for his reputation--rather, he was simply concerned for his nation that they could mistakenly think that Hashem's mercy cannot always be reached.
Summary: After the nation of Israel committed the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe sought to seek forgiveness by telling Hashem that if He doesn't forgive them then He should erase him from the entire Torah (see: 32;32). Rashi (32;32) explains the reasoning behind the request: "so that they should not say about me that I was not worthy enough to seek mercy (for the nation of Israel)." However, why did Moshe tell Hashem to erase him from the whole Torah--was he trying to threaten Hashem? Additionally, why was Moshe, the humblest person in the world (see: Bamidbar, 12;3), suddenly worried about his reputation? Rabbi Yochanan Zweig explains that Moshe had the power to affect all messages that he gave over to the nation from Hashem (by repeating it nicely or harshly, etc.) Therefore, Moshe was responsible to make sure that everything was given over in the proper manner. As a result, it was actually Moshe's duty to make sure that the nations actions were all in accordance with the words of Hashem, for he was their teacher. Additionally, perhaps we could suggest that Moshe wanted to teach the nation of Israel that one's connection can never be limited--and this was a message that Moshe wanted to send out for all future generations. Therefore he told Hashem to erase him from the whole Torah "so that people shouldn't say he wasn't worthy to seek mercy for nation of Israel"--meaning, so people wouldn't think that there are times when one cannot seek mercy from Hashem.