Shai Manela
Former Shaliach in Melbourne


What would you do if you were suddenly told to eliminate the Ayatollah regime in Iran, solve the problem of slavery in Niger, or end Britain’s outrageous pollution?

This is an easy question – if you’re a simple soldier with a whole chain of command above you and you don’t have to take responsibility for your decisions. But what if there’s no one above you? If you’re the one who’s responsible for everything? If you have no one to back you up? Would anyone listen to you? Would anyone even admit you to the king’s palace and give you an audience?

At the beginning of our parsha, Moshe Rabbenu meets HaKadosh Baruch Hu in the Burning Bush and is ordered to liberate Bnei Yisrael from Egypt. Moshe asks:

“Who am I that I should go to Paroh and that I should take the Children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Shmot 3:11)

HaKadosh Baruch Hu responds with a seeming non-sequitur:

“And this is the sign for you…when you take the people out of Egypt, you will serve God…” (Shmot 3:12)

Yet, if we look closely, we can see that Hashem’s answer directly corresponds to Moshe’s concern. Hashem is saying to Moshe: You are not taking them out; I am the One Who is taking them out! You are simply my agent. Admittedly, serving as an agent requires greatness, but do not forget that I am the One Who sent you. Therefore, you have nothing to fear. Just as the boss supports his or her employees, I am behind you all the way.

The Gemara in Kiddushin presents a machloket (disagreement): According to one view, a shaliach (agent) is considered to be a yadah arichta (literally, a “long arm”). In other words, the shaliach is regarded as the sender’s extended arm. In contrast, the second opinion holds that a shaliach is considered to be ba’al hako’ach (literally, “the one with the power”). According to this view, the shaliach stands in lieu of the sender and may make decisions for him. In certain cases – especially when it comes to kiddushin (the betrothal ceremony, which is now part of the wedding ceremony) – this machloket can have a nafka mina (halachic ramification or implication).

As we have suggested, the sender’s identity is significant. Yet, at the same time, the shaliach must be suited to the mission. He or she must be someone who can complete the mission properly.

In Yimei Zikaron, Rav Soloveitchik writes that every single person on earth is charged with a mission. Just as Moshe Rabbenu accepted his mission and fulfilled it, so too we must fulfill our assigned missions to the very best of our abilities. According to Rav Soloveitchik, the specific historical, geographical, social and economic circumstances of our births and lives are all indications of the precise natures of our missions. After all, the Creator knows our individual strengths, weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages, and a person is only given a mission which he or she can handle. Therefore, we are each born into the exact period and location where we can best fulfill our assigned missions.