I rarely take the extended warranty when purchasing new electronics. I figure that this warranty must not be worth much if they feel the need to pressure me into buying it. They must know what I have learned the hard way: there is no such thing as a real guarantee. In my more naive days, I purchased this “peace of mind,” as they call it, but never cashed in. Usually, by the time the item broke, I had forgotten about the extended warranty and purchased a replacement. Once I taped a copy of the extended warranty to the side of the copy machine so I would remember it could be replaced if it broke. Which it indeed did, and when I enthusiastically dragged the 60-pound machine to the store for my free replacement, they insisted I give them the original receipt. They refused to accept the photocopy of the receipt that I had responsibly filed away. It seems that page four of the warranty states that the original receipt was required. I had neglected to read the pages of rules that accompanied by original purchase. The lesson was clear. If I were to purchase another extended warranty, I would have to bring a lawyer to the store to read and interpret the fine print. Since a replacement machine is probably cheaper than legal fees, I now make do without this costly and fruitless purchase.
On Yom Kippur we can get a warranty from Hashem with no complicated fine print. On Yom Kippur, we are offered the guarantee for a year of life and blessing, with no need to incur legal fees. We can all sign up for this great offer. However, in order to understand this amazing deal from our Creator, we must obtain some insight into the nature of teshuvah.
Whose fault is it when things go wrong? In general, we don’t like to accept blame. We prefer to blame others or to rationalize our actions. Chazal tell us that when we repeatedly sin, the sins become habits; they become part of who we are, and it becomes very difficult to change the patterns of sin. The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 17) tells us of Eliezer ben Durdiya who had become a habitual sinner. When he decided to repent, Eliezer sat between two mountains and asked them to request mercy for him. They responded that they must request mercy for themselves. In turn, he proceeded to ask the Heaven and earth, the sun, moon, and stars, each responded that it must first request mercy for itself. He finally realized that it was up to him to ask for mercy, whereupon he put his head between his knees and cried until his soul left him. A voice from Heaven declared, “R’ Eliezer ben Durdiya is destined for the World to Come” (without need for Gehinom). Some explain that we learn from this story that even a habitual sinner can change his ultimate direction in life as long as he realizes that he himself is ultimately responsible to change his attitude or actions. When Eliezer ben Durdiya cried out to the two mountains, some explain that the mountains represented his parents, whom he blamed for his current situation. When he cried to the other forces of nature, he was blaming his teachers, friends, or boss. It wasn’t until he assumed personal responsibility for his actions that was he capable of real change, to the extent that his repentance erased a lifetime of serious sin and gained him admission to the World to Come.
The Rambam tell us that there is a serious type of sinner called “minnim,” who “stray after the thoughts of their hearts, concerning themselves with foolish matters… until they ultimately transgress against the body of the Torah arrogantly, with scorn, with the intent of provoking Hashem’s anger, and yet say that there is no sin involved.” At the moment a person sins he does not feel the presence of Hashem, as that alone would prevent him from sinning. We may know that we are wrong, but we easily blame our faults on other people, stress, or the desire for the pleasure involved. The classic example is the person who awakens in middle of the night to get a drink of water. As he passes through the dark kitchen, he trips over a chair, stubs his toe, and jumps up and down in pain. It does not occur to him that his injury occurred because he was not careful or too lazy to turn on the light. After he takes his drink, he passes by the same chair and painfully stubs his toe again. He hops up and down and screams at the stupid chair as if the furniture has a life of its own and deliberately meandered into his path. This explains why a person who gets angry is compared to one who worships idols, since anger makes a person imbue life and power into inanimate objects. Here he gave life and power to the inanimate chair that hurt him with its dastardly actions.