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This question weaves together a couple different sources.

The first nekudah comes from 32:32 where we have the phrase:

וְאִם-אַיִן--מְחֵנִי נָא, מִסִּפְרְךָ אֲשֶׁר כָּתָבְתָּ - If you will not [forgive them] then erase me from the book you have written.

And Hashem upholds this:

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶל-מֹשֶׁה: מִי אֲשֶׁר חָטָא-לִי, אֶמְחֶנּוּ מִסִּפְרִי - And Hashem said to Moshe - The one who has sinned to/against me, I will erase from my book.

Famously, Chazal state that this is actualized in the previous parsha of Tetzaveh, the only parsha in the Torah (since the recording of his birth) that omits Moshe's name. But there is a problem:

Many hold that the events of Ki Tisa come before Terumah-Tetzaveh (most famously the Rambam), but what sin had Moshe committed at the point Tetzaveh occurred to lead to his omission there?

Later in 34:1:

וְכָתַבְתִּי֙ עַל־הַלֻּחֹ֔ת אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר הָי֛וּ עַל־הַלֻּחֹ֥ת הָרִאשֹׁנִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר שִׁבַּֽרְתָּ - And I will write on the tablets the the things/words that were on the first tablets which you broke.

and the commentary in Yevamos 62a on this:

והסכימה דעתו לדעת המקום דכתיב (שמות לד, א) אשר שברת ואמר ריש לקיש אמר ליה הקב"ה למשה יישר כחך ששברת - And his knowledge agreed with the knowledge of the Omnipresent, as it says "which you broke" - Reish Lakeish says Hashem said to him [Moshe] Your strength was true that you broke them (i.e.: you did the correct thing).

But this is not the only action Moshe took in response to the Golden Calf - he also encouraged the wholesale extra-judicial killing of anyone associated with the Golden Calf, something that seems entirely outside the bounds of halacha. We do not see Hashem approve of this action.

Is there a source that discusses the possibility of Hashem subtly censuring Moshe for encouraging the tribe of Levi to kill without a proper hearing?

  • Note that the phrase "your strength is true" is using the term true as in "your aim is true," meaning accurate and proper/straight. – Isaac Kotlicky Feb 29 '16 at 13:50
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You say that the killing of anyone associated with the Golden Calf was extra-judicial and we do not see Hashem approve of this action. You quote Shmos 32 (26) .

But in verse 27,

He (Moshe) said to them: "So said the Lord, the God of Israel: 'Let every man place his sword upon his thigh and pass back and forth from one gate to the other in the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his friend, every man his kinsman.' "

So Hashem told Moshe to arrange the killing of those who worshipped the golden calf. Rashi wants to know where Hashem told Moshe and says:

Now, where did He say [this]? “He who slaughters [a sacrifice] to the gods shall be destroyed” (Exod. 22:19). So it was taught in the Mechilta.

So it is clear that the killing was Divinely instructed.

The Ramban deals with the questions of why they were not brought to Beis Din, how they could be put to death without ever having been warned and why they did not get the appropriate punishment but were put to death by the sword.

These points are indeed extra-judicial. But Hashem instructed the action and therefore there is no need to censure Moshe!

Ramban says that the action was essentially a הוראת שעה (temporary teaching) to sanctify Hashem. See the Ramban for more details.

  • I don't know whether to up vote for a well reasoned argument or down vote for failing to address the question... – Isaac Kotlicky Mar 3 '16 at 2:49

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