This week we are privileged to read the portion of ki sisa. The portion begins with the mitzvah of giving a half shekel. Later we learn about the sanctity of Shabbos and further we learn about the tragic sin of the gloden calf. The Torah tells us how Moshe defended the Jewish nation befor G-d and begged for forgiveness.
We find that when Moshe asks Hashem for forgiveness he says (Shmos 32/31) please! This nation has committed a tremendous sin ... And now if You would but forgive their sin! But if not erase me now from your book.
This needs clarification. Moshe was defending the Jews, why then would he describe the greatness of the sin ? Also, what would erasing him from the book accomplish ?
The Dubno Magid explains this conversation with the following parable: a minister had a relative who was a well known thief. Every time he was caught he would run to his relative to beg mercy of the king and get pardoned for his crime. The pattern continued several times, until once he committed a tremendous robbery. The minister was stuck, how can he possibly defend this crime? He decided to come to the king and say "please fire me immediately"! why ?, The king will ask. You see my relative keeps stealing, relying that I will save him by defending him before the king. However, if I will be released from my position he may stop his criminal activity, as he will lose his advocate.
So too, Moshe came before Hashem and said this is a tremendous crime release me, and they won't commit any crimes as they will have no defender...
Chassidic masters write a slightly different explanation. When Moshe said ono choto hoam hazeh chato'oh gedolah (This nation has committed a tremendous sin). The word chet means a sin and also a "mistake". Moshe was saying that they committed a tremendous mistake, which is consider to be a crime only because of their greatness. As we know our sages teach us that Hashem judges tzadikim precisely even as a thin hair, meaning that the greater the person the greater the judgment. What may be considered a mistake to a simple man would be considered a sin to a righteous man.
Moshe was saying to Hashem that the Jews made a mistake, and the only reason that they're being judge so harshly is because they are great people. So what appears to be offensive is now being used as the defense.
May we merit to always do the right thing, yet be able to defend other's wrongdoing.