אם אינך יכול לנצח, אתה מוכרח לנצח
-- הרבי מקוצק
If you cannot prevail, you must prevail
-- the Kotzker Rebbe
As we approach Purim, a short Purim tale must be told. It’s full of sound and fury, signifying . . . something. “If you cannot prevail, you must prevail.” And this is, after all, a story about you and the mysterious life known as “living in Israel.”
Bezeq, your internet company called to say you just had to exchange your modem for a faster model, to speed up your service from 15 megabytes to 40 megabytes, especially since you would only be paying another 10 shekels a month for service that would be more than twice as fast. Your internet was moving rather slowly of late so for another 10 shekels a month it made sense to get the new modem, especially since you were virtually incapacitated at the thought of saying no to the Bezeq agent on the phone. Israelis are phenomenal at selling.
(They inherited this trait from Abraham. After guests stopped at Abraham’s desert inn and had eaten sumptuously, they asked how much they owed him and were told they owed him nothing as long as they would thank God for the bountiful feast from which they had benefited.)
It turns out, though, that there are two Bezeqs, Bezeq Infrastructure and Bezek International. You receive the new modem from Bezeq Infrastructure but you must personally make contact with Bezek International for the deal to go through. I briefly argued the point with the officious voice on the other end of the line, knowing I would get nowhere, but still, in this country, you have to make a statement when confronted with a breach in customer service etiquette. How else will things ever change? More to the point, why not have Bezeq Infrastructure and Bezeq International combine forces so you only speak with one service representative when handling matters such as a modem replacement?
This borderline absurd context to the story makes what happened next almost predictable.
A time is arranged for the modem to be delivered. The delivery arrives and you eagerly make the switch to the new modem. But then, low and behold, your computer sends you a harsh message: “you are not connected to the internet.” You have a deadline to meet. You are working on a project that requires internet research. It’s Thursday and your deadline is fast approaching.
You call 199, the Bezeq technical support line. The technical assistant checks your line and says there is a serious malfunction that can only be corrected with a technician’s visit, and the earliest that can happen is Sunday morning. Normally, a technician would come tomorrow but tomorrow is not possible because of a Purim parade in your neighborhood. “I need a technician immediately!” you howl into the phone. “You caused this malfunction with the new modem! This is your fault, not mine!” After going back and forth for several minutes, you demand to speak with a supervisor. “Okay,” the agent says. Several minutes go by and the agent gets back on the phone. “The supervisor will call you in an hour and a half.” “No! I need to speak with a supervisor!” you shriek. “Okay, but the supervisor will call you in an hour and a half.” “Not in an hour and a half, now! This is my parnassa!” That word “now,” coupled with “parnassa” seems to have worked some magic. Another few minutes go by and a supervisor gets on the line, as nice as can be. You are directed to type some codes onto a technical web page but still nothing happens. You re-iterate to the supervisor that this is not your fault and that the malfunction happened when the old modem, which worked just fine, was replaced with the new. You switch back to the old modem but still no internet connection. Finally, by continually mentioning that your parnassa is at stake (which it is), the supervisor agrees to try and get a technician to visit today. A few minutes later and you are promised a technician will arrive between 3 and 5. You tell the supervisor he is a tzadik and wait. At 3:15, you get a call from a technician. “We found your problem, a wire was out of alignment, but now it’s fixed and everything is fine.” You check your internet and, indeed, everything is fine. You tell the technician he’s a tzadik and get back to your work.
Now, here’s the odd, miraculous, Purim aspect to this whole sequence of events. Could it indeed have happened that the wire went out of alignment at the precise moment that you received the new modem? What would be the chance of a Purimesque coincidence of this kind, of such a צירוף מקרים as the technician described it? For several years, there had been no such malfunction and no need for any technician visit. And then, on this day, at the precise moment that the new modem was in place, the malfunction occurred? Morever, if this was indeed a coincidence, it must have been a truly blessed one. For had you not installed a new modem at the time of the malfunction, there would have been no way of linking the malfunction to a Bezeq blunder, and it is doubtful that you could have been as persuasive in securing a technician’s visit the same day.
Well, as the Ramban says, a Jew who does not regard everything that happens in his personal life as a miracle is not worthy of calling himself a Jew! So I stand more than ready to accept that this -- a far more unusual sequence of events than occurs in everyday life -- was easily a miracle, by means of which I was allowed to finish my project on time.
But I also can’t help recalling those most pertinent words of the Kotzker Rebbe: “If you cannot prevail, you must prevail.” The notion makes no sense. If you cannot do something, how are you nonetheless able to do it? It’s because you must. Beneath superficial impossibility, lies possibility, even inevitability, hidden below.It's just like the Jews at Purim time. There was a decree to kill all the Jews and it had been signed and sealed by God Himself. Only because of the tears and sobbing of school children whom Mordechai had instructed to fast and to pray was the decree annulled.Israelis are made of steel. “If you cannot prevail, you must prevail” is an apt description of how we live surrounded by enemies sworn to destroy us, even at the price of allowing this attitude to spill over into daily encounters among ourselves. Each person stakes his claim. Both fight valiantly and give no quarter and this leads to shouting and, at a times, saying inappropriate things. It's a price, I humbly submit, worth paying. It's the price we pay to survive.
In each impossible interaction with the bureaucracy or the utility company or your internet provider, the moment you can activate the kindness in your fellow Jew you can prevail because then, in reality, you make it possible for that precious Jew, and for their kindness -- the essential part of every Jew -- to prevail.