Tomer was a guy in Eretz Yisrael, a young guy who a lot of people knew even if they didn’t really know him, because he drove a bright red Chevrolet with music blasting away, and so, when he was around, you had to notice him one way or another – either you saw him or you heard him or both! He thought he was happy, or at least he acted as if he was happy with these externalities, but inside him was a Jewish neshama, a Jewish soul that wasn’t getting much recognition or attention. And it wouldn’t turning to his car, his cool friends, wild music and so on.
But then one day something happened and as a result he started to think about Hashem, and the Torah and eventually he decided to check it out. He went to a few lectures here and there and little by little, the more he learned the more he liked it, the more he loved it, the more he wanted to live like a Jew. And then he made a life-altering decision and became a baal teshuva. He started to become religious. It was a gradual process but it was strong and deep until he became completely Torah observant – kipah, tzitzit, Shabbat, everything! And it was great. Finally he had found inner joy, peace and meaning in life, and finally he was truly happy.
He began studying in a baal teshuva yeshiva and it wasn’t long before he was set up with Ronit, a wonderful girl from a secular background who had also made teshuva. They went out, again and again, and when they saw how right they were for each other, including the fact that they shared the same goals, both of them wanting to grow in Yiddishkeit, they became engaged. Tomer and Ronit married and were a great couple.
He was learning in kollel and she was working and also going to a shiur once a week or more. They seemed like an ideal religious couple. There was only one thing that was off. Tomer still had his red Chevrolet! Somehow this car didn’t fit in with the rest of his image. He was wearing a white shirt and a dark suit and hat, his wife was dressed modestly, her hair covered with a scarf, and though there was no blaring music, and there was even soft Jewish music in the car, the car was still bright red!
One day Ronit brought up the subject as tactfully as she could. “Tomer, you’re so refined, you’re learning Torah day and night, it’s not really…it’s um…I mean…do you feel okay with the car? I mean it’s so bright red. It’s a bit…loud, a bit…incongruous with who you are today.” Tomer thought a minute or two and then, being intelligent and honest, he said: “You’re right.” “You don’t have to get rid of it” Ronit said. “Maybe you can just have it painted black.” Tomer smiled and said: “Just have it painted black? Painting a car is very expensive. It would cost thousands of shekels, which we don’t have.” And then he said: “Why don’t we just sell it? That way not only won’t we have the expense of painting it, but we’ll have extra cash as well.” “Sounds good if that’s what you want to do,” replied Ronit.
And so it was that Tomer advertised that he had a Chevrolet for sale, stating the year and price, and giving his phone number. Fairly quickly they received a call from someone who said he was interested in buying the car and asked when he could come see it. They made an appointment and the potential buyer, who wasn’t Jewish, came over to check out the car. Tomer was talking on the phone to someone as the man examined the car. He poked, and banged, he opened the hood and checked out different things inside, and so on as Tomer continued talking on the phone. “It looks okay so far,” said the potential customer. “Are you willing to go down in price?”
Tomer told his friend that he had to hang up and then he said to the customer: “Maybe a little.” “Okay, but before we even start negotiating, I have to drive it around the block to check it out in reality.” “Yeah, of course,” said Tomer and just then his phone rang. As he answered it he put his hand in his pocket, took out the car keys and gave it to the buyer. He should have gotten into the car together with him but he was distracted by the new phone call and before he realized what was happening, his client got into the car, turned it on and zipped away. Tomer waited for him to come back. He waited five minutes, ten minutes, half an hour, and then he realized that there was no point in waiting any longer. And he didn’t even have insurance.
After that fruitless half an hour he went upstairs to where his wife was waiting and told her what had transpired. She was surprised and commiserated with her husband. “Wow, what a surprise. What a disappointment. We thought we’d have that extra money and now we don’t have the money or the car.” And then she added: “You better call the police as soon as possible, maybe they’ll find him and the car. After all, it’s an easy car to spot.” “Nah,” said Tomer, the police are busy with other things; they won’t go out of their way to find it.” “Well, look, everything’s from Hashem for the good, but still we’re supposed to do hishtadlut, we’re supposed to make our best effort, so why don’t you call anyway.”
“Wow, what a great wife you are!” said Tomer. “You’re not upset, you’re not blaming me for being irresponsible, you’re terrific. You’re fantastic!” “Ronit smiled, obviously pleased by the compliments and then said: “Do me a favor and just call the police, so that we know that we did our best.” “Sure,” said Tomer, and he called. The police didn’t even ask him to come down to the station but just took down all the info on the phone. “Okay,” said Tomer. “I did my hishtadlut.”
Ronit smiled and then said something else. “You know I’m always working on myself, going to classes and reading, and trying to get better and better as a religious Jew.” “Yeah, you’re terrific,” said Tomer.
“Well,” Ronit continued, “one of the things I learned recently is how important it is to thank Hashem for everything. For everything. So let’s thank Hashem for what just happened.” Tomer looked at her as if he hadn’t heard right or as if she hadn’t understood what she was told. “You’re saying that I should thank Hashem that our car was stolen and we don’t even have any insurance?” “Yes,” said Ronit, “that’s what I was taught. I was taught that there’s a larger picture, and we don’t see it all, but that everything is from Hashem for the good, and so we should thank Him for everything.” Tomer thought for a minute or two and then said: “Okay. If you’re sure that’s what you were taught, then I’m willing.” “I’m sure.”
This time it was Tomer who smiled, looked up and after a moment said: “Hashem, thank You for everything! Thank You for my wonderful wife, and my home and my food and clothing, thank You for the Torah…thank You for everything…including…” he paused, and then he said: “Thank You Hashem that our car was stolen! Thank You! Thank You!” Then Ronit said basically the same words, thanking Hashem for everything, including the fact that their car was stolen. “Tomer,” she said with a smile, “I learned that when we thank Hashem for everything, amazing wonderful things happen!” Tomer smiled at his wonderful, innocent, trusting wife and said: “Great! I’m ready!”
Time went by, days, a week, even longer and the car was no longer a topic of discussion. Tomer and Ronit got used to the fact of the theft, and to their new reality of traveling on buses. And then one day they got a phone call. It was the police and they wanted Tomer to come down to the station. “We have your car!” they told him on the phone. “What?!!” “Yes, what you heard. We found your car.” “I’ll be there within half an hour,” said Tomer and as he hung up he said to Ronit: “Do you believe it? They said they found the car. Hard to believe but I’m gonna check it out. I’ll let you know what happens. Shalom!” And with that he left for the police station.
When he arrived he was greeted cordially and told that his car had been found. A policeman took him to an area behind the station and said, pointing to a Chevrolet: “Here it is. Here’s your car.” Tomer looked and his face fell. What a disappointment. He had hoped that they had really found his car but they hadn’t. This Chevy was black, clearly not his car. “It’s not mine,” he told the policeman. “It’s a Chevrolet, but not mine.”
“Yes, it is”, the officer said. “Look at the license plates.” Tomer looked and was amazed to see that it was the exact same number as the license plate on his red Chevy. He was confused and said: “How can that be? My car is red.” The policeman explained: “One of the first things a car thief does is have the car painted so it will be less recognizable and harder for the police to locate. But you were lucky and we found it.”
Tomer was speechless, and then he started laughing. “What’s the joke?” asked the policeman. “Well, first of all, I’m just happy that I have my car back. And second of all, it’s just the way I wanted it. My wife and I didn’t want a red car anymore but since painting it is so expensive, we decided to sell it. And then it was stolen. And then my wife and I thanked Hashem for everything, including the fact that it was stolen, and then it was painted and returned to us. For free. That’s why I’m laughing. I’m laughing from joy and gratitude.”
And then Tomer looked up and said: “Thank You, Hashem. Thank You for everything, including the fact that my car was stolen, and returned, and is the perfect color for a couple that loves you so much!”