Learned from the Pro
וְעַתָּה אִם תִּשָּׂא חַטָּאתָם וְאִם אַיִן מְחֵנִי נָא מִסִּפְרְךָ אֲשֶׁר כָּתָבְתָּ (שמות לב, לב)
AND NOW, IF YOU FORGIVE THEIR SIN… BUT IF NOT, ERASE ME NOW FROM YOUR BOOK, WHICH YOU HAVE WRITTEN. (SHEMOS 32:32)
To the greatest degree possible for any human being, Moshe’s identity and existence became one with the Creator. He surrendered himself to G-d to the extent that our sages say, “The Shechinah (Divine Presence) spoke through Moshe’s throat” (Zohar vol. 3, p. 232a)—i.e., he was G-d’s veritable mouthpiece on this earth.
Accordingly, when Moshe demanded that his name be erased from the Torah if G-d would not forgive Bnei Yisrael for the sin of the Golden Calf, he was threatening to abandon much more than his own legacy. For considering Moshe’s oneness with the Shechinah, to suggest erasing Moshe’s “name” and association with the Torah would be to suggest erasing, in a sense, the Shechinah’s association with the Torah!
Nevertheless, to save Bnei Yisrael, Moshe believed that such extreme measures were acceptable. Moshe learned this from the method by which the Torah tells us to examine a sotah, a woman accused of infidelity, who may not live with her husband until it is determined that she is innocent of sin. In order to restore their marriage, a portion of the Torah containing several mentions ofG-d’s name is erased into water which the sotah must drink. The water will affect her only if she is guilty. If it has no adverse effects on her, we consider her innocent and she may return to her husband. Of this process, the Talmud declares, “G-d says: Let My Name, written in sanctity, be blotted out in water to make peace between a man and his wife!” (Shabbos 116a),
In the same vein, Moshe reasoned that it was right to demand that his name be erased if it meant Bnei Yisrael would be saved. Taking an example from
G-d’s willingness to “sacrifice” His name, allowing it to be erased in order to restore the relationship between a husband and wife, Moshe felt justified to compromise his name, his honor, and everything he represented, in order to restore the precious bond between G-d and the Jewish people.
—Sefer Hasichos 5749, vol. 1, p. 290, fn. 68