Judges 10:6 opens what seems like just another round of the cycle that runs through much of the book: sin, punishment via foreign oppressors, crying out to G-d, salvation via a new “Judge,” repeat. However, several commentaries suggest that the cries to God in this instance fall short of the sort of true repentance that would merit salvation.
Depending how one reads a key word (pun intended; the Hebrew word is v’ki), they either cry out, “We have sinned to You and have abandoned our God and served the Ba’alim” (Abarbanel’s first reading) OR they cry out, “We have sinned to You – but have we abandoned our God and served the Ba’alim?!” (Malbim’s reading). In the latter, the people acknowledge they’re not perfect and even that they shouldn’t have turned to Ba’alim – but they try to mitigate their wrong by arguing that they simply saw the Ba’al as an intermediary, not as a replacement for God.
Whatever the sincerity or extent of their repentance, the text follows this declaration with divine rebuke and an assertion that they have indeed “abandoned Me” (v. 13) in favor of other gods, and then a further acknowledgement from the people: “We have sinned; You do to us as You see fit, only please save us this day” (v. 15). They dispose of their idols and commit anew to serving God (v. 16), and the path is clear towards salvation yet again.
A Tuesday TorahTutors Tidbit: Real Torah, from real TorahTutors sessions.
With best wishes for a safe and meaningful Yom Kippur to all our students, teachers, and friends.