Parshat Vayera: Each of us has a Mission

The great Ferris Bueller famously teaches us that “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  (To refresh your memory, you can watch him say that here:
I thought of Ferris this week when speaking to our Middle Schoolers about the angels in our parasha of Vayera who first visited Avraham and then Lot.  We read that three anashim, three “people,” came to greet Avraham and give him the news of the impending miraculous birth of Yitzchak.
In the next chapter, Avraham’s nephew Lot greets two melachim, two angels, at the gate of Sodom.  The Midrash Tanchuma explains that one angel came with the mission of destroying Sodom and Amora; the other’s job was to save Lot and his family.  Rashi, who cites this midrash, explains that the third angel’s mission was to bring the news of Yitzchak’s birth.  This angel’s shlichut, his mission, was done.  Since he was no longer needed, he left.
Each of us has a mission, a shlichut to perform.  The trick, like Ferris advised, is to stop and look around once in a while so we don’t miss it.  As Mordechai observes to Esther, u-mi yode’a im le’et kazot hig’at la-malchut, “who knows if this isn’t the reason you become queen?”  You need to recognize your mission for what it is.  When she hears this, Esther steps up and saves the day.
Most of us (thank God) do not have such dramatic moments of life and death in our lives; most of us have a series of mini-missions in our lives.  Because they are not so dramatic, these moments of shlichut can be challenging to recognize.  When we are called upon to help a friend, it’s clear that we need to pitch in.  It’s the times when we are not called upon, yet still need to act, that are moments of shlichut.  It’s the calls or texts when a friend or family member asks us something but really means to ask us something deeper or more important that are those moments.  If we don’t have our “shlichutantennae” up and ready, we could miss them.
It’s natural for a child to think only about his or her own needs.  If we can help our kids refine their empathy and sensitivity, helping them, in Ferris’s words, to “stop and look around once in a while,” then they will be able to capture the shlichut opportunities offered them by life.
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Jeffrey Kobrin