He had always been known as the faithful servant. But this time his words were brash. Brazen. Almost impudent. Dangerously so.

“If You won’t forgive them, leave me out of this. Leave me out of this covenant, leave me out of this Torah, leave me out of the entire story.”

“If this Torah won’t allow You to forgive them, I want no part of it.”

Until now, everything had been about Torah. He had rescued the people and brought them to the mountain only to enter into this covenant. The entire world had trembled as he brought heaven to meet earth, Creator to creation. For 40 days and 40 nights he sat in another world to absorb the words of this Torah and bring it to the people.

That is how he saw himself: As a teacher. He had rescued the people, he had carried them towards the promised land, fought for them and provided for them. But in his mind, it was all only in order to teach them. So that there could be this people, a special people, who would enter into a covenant with G‑d. And keep it.

But they did not keep it.

He had one of two choices: He could hold onto the Torah. Or he could hold onto the people.

When he descended from the mountain, carrying the two hewn stones, a divine work, a miraculous work, and he saw the people dancing about a golden calf in revelry, he realized to his horror that he had one of two choices: He could hold onto the Torah. Or he could hold onto the people.

If this Torah would arrive in the people’s hands, they would be judged. They had received this Torah, and they had defied it. They would be destroyed.

If this Torah would not arrive in the people’s hands, there would still be time. There would still be a chance to plead on their behalf. Perhaps they could be saved.

He smashed that which until now had been the most precious thing in the world to him. All for which he had ascended to the greatest heights and toiled over with all his soul.

And now, he pleaded.

“You want to forgive,” he said. “I know that. When they were in Egypt, they were idolators, yet You called them ’My child, My firstborn.’ Your love was unconditional.”

“But now You have given them this Torah,and it is this Torah that won’t let you forgive. And if that is the case, I want no part of it.”

“I understand that this is the most perfect law, the most ideal covenant, a teaching that surpasses all. But I don’t want to lead a people that exists for the sake of fulfilling a perfect Torah. I want a Torah that is there for the sake of the people, to make their souls shine. To bring them to You.”

“What kind of a Torah is that? One that allows for human failure. For bad, wrong choices. For impudence and even defiance—all those things that human beings do. And then for reconciliation. And forgiveness.”

“I want a Torah that includes You within it. And if You are there, forgiveness is always at hand.”

G‑d answered with a Torah that includes forgiveness. A Torah whose purpose is to connect the people to Him and to bring out their love. A Torah whose heart was where the heart of Moses lay—with the people, unconditionally, even if the Torah itself had to be shattered in order to save them.

When Moses died, the rabbis say, G‑d eulogized him. What was the greatest praise He could say of His faithful servant? That he rescued the people? That he gave them His Torah? That he led them through the wilderness for forty years?

He said, “Moses, you broke the tablets. Thank you, Moses. Thank you.”

Likutei Sichot, volume 21, Tetzaveh/Zayin Adar, pg 173-180
Ibid, volume 9, Vezot Habrachah, pg 237-242