Obeying Microsoft's recommendations can lead to catastrophe. That's what happened to me when I innocently clicked on "Yes" in the window that recommended condensing my emails in order to save space on my hard disk. Some 20 minutes later, the job was done -- and my last month and a half of emails had disappeared.
"Don't panic," I told myself. "They must be in there somewhere." But as the specter of dozens of red-flagged emails that direly needed replies began to haunt me, I became increasingly agitated. A frantic 45 seconds later, I called Microsoft Israel's technical support.
Yaniv was reassuring. "Don't worry," he calmed me. "They're in the Recycle Bin on your desktop." Lo and behold, they were! But how to get them back into my Outlook Express?
"Well, it's a little complicated," Yaniv said. "I don't think you'll be able to do it on your own. Are you willing to share control of your computer with me until we solve the problem?"
A person drowning in cyberspace will agree to anything. "Yes, Yes!" I promised.
The first thing he had me do was download the program, "Microsoft Easy Assist." Then a window appeared asking if I was willing to share control of my computer with a Microsoft technical support assistant. "Yes," I clicked emphatically.
A small blue box appeared in the lower right hand corner of my screen. It asked the same question again. Apparently relinquishing control is not so easy for some people. "It's okay, Yaniv," I told him on the phone. "I trust you." I clicked, "Yes," and the little blue box switched messages. Now it assured me that at any time I wanted to withdraw control from the technical support assistant, all I had to do was click the appropriate box. "Why would I want to do that?" I wondered. "He's helping me do what I could never do by myself. I guess some people really have control issues."
"Okay, are you ready?" Yaniv asked.
"Now let go of the mouse."
"Let go of the mouse. I'm going to control your mouse."
Let go of my mouse? I sat there with my hand frozen on my trusty mouse.
"If you want me to restore your emails," Yaniv explained patiently, "You have to let me control your mouse."
I let go.
Like some preternatural Ouija board, my pointer started to move by itself. I was doing nothing. He was doing everything.
Then, like some preternatural Ouija board, my pointer started to move by itself. With my hands tightly folded on my lap and my eyes wide, I saw the pointer moving rapidly and clicking. Every move was accompanied by Yaniv's first-person plural declarations, "Now, we'll click here. Now we'll open up this window. Now we'll right click on this." It was a royal "we." I was doing nothing. He was doing everything.
Ten minutes later the phantom emails were sitting pertly back in my Outlook Express. Yaniv told me to click on the little blue box withdrawing permission for him to control my computer. I did so reluctantly. Obviously, he knew how to run my computer better than I did.
LET GO AND LET GOD
While some of us are worse control freaks than others, all of us resist relinquishing control of our lives to God. We human beings have been in competition with the Almighty ever since Adam and Eve were seduced into eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge by the enticement: "You will become like gods."
What's wrong with wanting to control your own life rather than letting God be God?
First of all, thinking that you are in ultimate control of everything that happens to you, which is the same as thinking that you are God, is crazier than thinking that you're Napoleon. This delusion bumps up against reality every time that you get stuck in an unexpected traffic jam, or your flight is delayed three hours (causing you to miss your connection), or you get sick on a day when you simply can't afford to miss work.
The best damage control is to realize that you are not in control, like the sign that hung in my bedroom three decades ago: "LET GO AND LET GOD." If you don't surrender control, you will still be sitting on the runway as the hours tick by, but your blood pressure will be catapulting to dangerous levels and you may find yourself shouting at the stewardess or making vain threats never to fly that airline again, even though it's the only one that flies to Xanpliwey.
The day after my Microsoft lesson in letting go, I found myself in an unpalatable position. I had agreed to deliver a welcome basket to an important family arriving in Israel to study Judaism. My assignment was to take a taxi to the neighborhood where they would be staying and to visit with them for fifteen minutes to make them feel comfortable. They were due to arrive on a Friday afternoon. On Thursday I carefully shopped for the perfect assortment of fruit, salads, sushi, chocolates, plus junk food for the children. Then I found the ideal basket. With meticulous care, I arranged each item in the basket.
On Friday at noon, I started phoning the two cell numbers I had been given. They were not turned on. With mounting dismay, as the onset of Shabbat drew nearer and nearer, I kept dialing the numbers, to no avail. My teenage son suggested that I just go and drop off the basket, whether or not they were there, but I responded that the whole point was for me to visit with them. My daughter suggested that maybe they had arrived early in the morning and had turned off their cell phones because they were now sleeping, so I should just go and ring their doorbell. That would be even worse, I pointed out. I'm supposed to make a favorable impression and instead I should annoy them by waking them up?
At 4 o'clock their phones were still turned off. Finally, in desperation, I called a taxi and went. As I sat in the cab in a state of heightened anxiety -- What if they're not there? What if I wake them up? -- I suddenly heard Yaniv's voice: "Let go of the mouse."
I had done everything I could do, and now I was no longer in control.
With a jolt I realized: I had done everything I could do, and now I was no longer in control. God runs the world. It will be the way He wants it. I let go of the mouse, and relaxed.
When I got to the address, I found the landlord watering the garden. I asked for the family who was supposed to be staying upstairs. He informed me that their flight had been rerouted, and they would be arriving in Jerusalem only minutes before Shabbat. He let me into the apartment to drop off my basket and refrigerate the sushi and salads. I left my card with a message of greeting, resolving to call them after Shabbat. And that was that. It didn't work out the way I had planned; it worked out the way God had planned. And who knows which scenario was ultimately better? By letting go of the mouse, I returned home relaxed and content, instead of frustrated and vexed.
THE BETTER CONTROLLER
The second reason to let God be God is that He does a better job of it than we would. Just as relinquishing control of the mouse to Yaniv had yielded a better result than my trying to solve the problem, sometimes we are afforded a glimpse of how God is more qualified than we are to run the world.
Jerusalem resident Hedy Kleiman was visiting her father in Toronto for two weeks. Her father had been chronically ill with kidney disease for eight years. With both of his children living in Israel, he had been well taken care of by his wife. Since her mother's death nine months before, however, Hedy had flown to Toronto twice to help her father. This time she found him weaker than before, but stable.
On Tuesday night she was scheduled to fly home to Israel. At noon on Tuesday the phone rang. It was El Al calling for Hedy. "How did you get my number in Toronto?" Hedy asked, perplexed. The El Al clerk said she had called Hedy's number in Jerusalem, and her son had supplied the Toronto number. El Al was calling to ask Hedy to agree to be bumped from her flight that night. In exchange, El Al would give her a reservation for Thursday night plus a free ticket Tel Aviv-Toronto.
Hedy was nonplussed. She had five children at home to take care of, as well as a job that had already given her more than her share of vacation time. On the other hand, she thought, a free ticket would enable her to return to Toronto for her mother's yahrzeit in April. And why, she wondered uneasily, had El Al selected her, out of hundreds of passengers, to be bumped?
"First of all," responded Hedy, "I can't fly Thursday night. The plane would land on Friday too close to Shabbat. What about Saturday night?"
"Saturday night is solidly booked. The best we can do is give you a reservation for Sunday night."
"I can't decide without speaking to my husband and my boss at work," Heddy waffled, "I'll call you back."
"No, we'll call you back," the El Al clerk insisted. "How many minutes do you need?"
"Ten," Hedy answered. She couldn't reach her husband (who told her later that he would have advised against it), but her boss okayed the extra days. When the El Al clerk called back with uncharacteristic promptness, Hedy agreed to be bumped and fly on Sunday night instead.
Late Saturday night, Hedy's father suddenly felt sick and asked her to call an ambulance. By Sunday morning, he had lost consciousness. Hedy recited "Shema Yisrael" and the traditional "Vidui" [confession] for him. At 11:30 Sunday morning, he died. Thanks to her celestial travel agent, his beloved daughter was at his side.