After the sin of the Golden Calf, G-d told Moses: “Do not try to stop Me, and I will unleash My wrath against them and destroy them. And I will make you a great nation [in their stead].”
Moses refused to allow his people to be destroyed; he told G-d: “Please forgive them. If not, blot me out from the book which You have written.”
Here we see the ultimate expression of leadership. Every leader realises that he must make certain sacrifices for his followers, for in order to receive, you have to give. And most understand that for the captain of a ship to prosper, the crew and all of its passengers must also advance. But this is no more than enlightened self-interest. The leader cares about himself. He is simply wise enough to appreciate that he will benefit most when the others around him also thrive.
Moses was above this form of barter. His commitment to his people was for their good and welfare, and not his own. He was not interested in the benefits his leadership could bring him; he wanted his people to succeed. Therefore, G-d’s promise that his own seed would flourish did not interest him; his only concern was that his people should fulfill their purpose.
And so he told G-d: “If not, blot me out from the book.” Some interpret this as referring to the book of life. Moses was telling G-d: “If I can’t help my people achieve their purpose, I don’t want to continue living.” For his life was intertwined with his people’s success.
Others explain that “the book” refers to the Torah. Moses cherished the Torah, G-d’s wisdom, more than anything else. There was, however, one exception: the Jewish people. For them, Moses was willing to give up his connection to the Torah, G-d’s book. And for this same reason, Moses broke the Tablets of the Ten Commandments. The tablets on which the Ten Commandments were engraved were “the work of G-d, and the writing of G-d,” given to Moses by G-d Himself.
And yet when the future of the Jewish people was at stake, Moses broke the tablets without hesitation. For there was nothing dearer to him than his people.
And Moses’s commitment to his people was non-judgmental. He was willing to make these sacrifices for them, not only when they lived up to the standards that he had set for them, but even when they failed to do so. He did not demand compliance for his commitment. He dedicated himself to his people as they were. For sure, he had his yardsticks, the principles and values which he strove so hard that his people live up to. But his love for them rose above these standards. He did not love them because they conformed to an image or an ideal he had. He loved them, and his love and commitment help mold them to match the ideals he held.