Menacham Michaeli, owner of the successful Tel Aviv auto repair shop and gas station bearing his name, Michaeli, Inc., is affectionately called Mickey, which he doesn’t mind.
One day, Mickey’s son Tzviki walks into the shop. I need this like a nail in a tire, Mickey thinks, not irritably but helplessly. He takes a deep breath and sits down for a rare “think.” Mickey, for all his money, has only one son, whom he loves heart and soul. From his seat, he takes in Tzviki’s new regalia: a white, tasseled, king-size, knitted cotton kipah, and tzitzit dangling to the floor, which threaten to trip him up as he dances into his father’s office like a wound-up marionette. This is the last thing I need, Mickey whispers wearily.
“Abba, be happy! I’ve become a ba’al teshuva! You’ll yet see barrels of nachat from me. Give a smile, there, Abba! The auto shop is not the whole world. We have an Abba in Heaven. He loves us. We have the Torah. And best of all, we have Rabi Nachman.” Tzviki grabs his father’s hands and tries to raise him up for an ecstatic Breslover song and dance: “B’Rabi Nachman nagila. . .”
Mickey doesn’t respond. His head whirls and his throat is dry. He can’t swallow this new apparition called “Tzviki the Breslover ba’al teshuva.”
“C’mon, Abba, do me a favor and stop saying, ‘That’s all I need…’ Look at me: I’m healthy and happy. It’s a mitzvah to be happy. Be happy, Abba.”
Tzviki, the 21-year-old Breslover, has decided to spread the word to the world via fliers, pamphlets, and stickers, urging people to be b’simcha and to blissfully banish worry and despair. Mickey gets up, unable to take this sitting down. “Look here, Tzviki. Your mother and I have made peace with your new mission. We love you. But do me a favor, son, and stop putting those stickers on my car and surely not on my clients’ cars. They don’t go for that stuff.”
In his euphoric Breslov state, Tzviki is not altogether receptive. He continues to visit the garage once or twice a week and can’t help but cover his father’s car with the latest stickers, which Mickey invariably peels off, only to find a new batch of more colorful versions declaring love and peace, faith and hope. It becomes a mechanical routine, with no hard feelings on either side.
Then one morning, waiting for the kettle to boil, Mickey goes out to remove the latest batch of happy messages. By seven-thirty, he is on the road, headed for the auto shop. There’s a long bottleneck this morning. Lots of honking, buses, children off to school. Mickey turns on some classical music, which fails to calm him as his foot alternates between the brake and the gas pedal. He notes a spanking new silvery Mercedes right behind him.
Finally, traffic begins to flow. Mickey swerves right and left to get a lead, with the Mercedes following right behind. He parks opposite the garage, and the silver car does likewise. A tall, natty young man in an expensive suit gets out and approaches him.
“Mister, listen here. You’ve saved my life! I’m not exaggerating! You have no idea what you just did for me!”
Mickey suspects the guy is nuts. “I don’t know you. I never set eyes on you before. I was never in any army combat unit or volunteered in Magen David Adom. Goodbye and have a good day.”
The man stands his ground. “Listen. I’m Oren Ginsberg, a successful businessman. A year ago, I got mixed up in some shady deals. Yesterday, my bank informed me that they were impounding everything: my home, my account, everything. Tomorrow, this car won’t even be mine any more. I am a broken man. This morning I decided to end everything; I have nothing to live for, besides which dozens of people are out of their jobs all because of me.
“I was on my way to committing suicide this morning by jumping off a cliff into the sea. Then I got stuck in the traffic jam and there you were, with this yellow sticker pasted over your back window: HASHEM IS WITH YOU AND BY YOU. DESPAIR DOES NOT EXIST IN THIS WORLD. EVERYTHING WILL TURN OUT FOR THE BEST. HASHEM LOVES YOU.
“These words danced before my eyes for 40 minutes. I couldn’t help reading them over and over, a hundred times, until the message sank in and I suddenly felt an inner peace and joy, a sense of worth and self esteem, a will to live and to change things in my life. There is a G-d and He is with me. He’ll help me out of my mess like the message – and everything will turn out for the best.”
Mickey is deeply moved. He shakes Ginsberg’s hand and says, “I believe it, too. Things will change for you. Go to it. Fight the bank. Give yourself another chance. You’re still young and life is before you.”
They shake hands again in friendship and part. Mickey takes a good look at his back window. But I removed six new stickers this morning! Bless him, Tzviki sneaked another one behind my back – or car. . .” He stands there, wonder-struck. “It’s hard to believe. One sticker, stuck on for less than an hour on my back window, filled a desperate Jew with inspiration and encouragement and a will to go on living. Amazing! If that’s what a mere sticker can do, who knows how the Torah itself can transform a person! Tzviki is not such a fool after all.”
His cell phone rings. “Abba, don’t be angry at me. I know you removed all my stickers, but I just couldn’t help myself. I want the whole world to know that despair does not exist. We have a Father in Heaven Who loves us. You forgive me, Abba, don’t you?”
A year and a half goes by. It’s morning and a silvery Mercedes glides into Mickey’s garage, its windows and back ablaze with colorful stickers. Mickey’s car (he’s given up the fight) is a toy in comparison. Ginsberg emerges and steps into the office.
“Hey, I know you,” says Mickey.
“Yep. I’m from the sticker. I wanted to make you happy. That morning was a major turning point in my life; it filled me with new motivation to live and succeed. I took in partners, straightened out my accounts, and dived in. As you see, it worked.”
”I’m so glad to hear that. It calls for a l’chaim!” Mickey takes out a spare kipah from his pocket for Oren.
“Never mind! I’ve had a kipah on my head for the past year and a half! And all that goes with it, thanks to your sticker.”
Mickey nods. Same here, he thinks. “Actually, it was Tzviki who put it there.”
They drink the shot of whiskey and feel in high spirits. In gallops Tzviki, also in high spirits. “Abba! You’ve got to see this! There’s a Mercedes outside decorated with more stickers than you’ve ever seen, all over! A car like that can make a Breslov revolution in the world! At least for the length of the Mediterranean shoreline!”
They all laugh. “Kid, your sticker saved my life!” Oren exclaims.
Tzviki doesn’t seem surprised. He turns to his father, “See, Abba, a sign from Heaven!”
Adapted from the Hebrew by Sheindel Weinbach.