Punishment vs. Atonement

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The Rambam says (Hilchos Teshuva 6:1-2) that some sins bring about a judgement of punishment that will pertain to the person’s body or his possessions, or his young children, some sins bring about a judgement of punishment that will take place only in the next world, and there are some sins that bring about a judgement of punishment both in this world and in the next. However, says the Rambam, that is only if the person did not do teshuva, but if he did teshuva then the teshuva is like a shield that blocks the negative consequences. One of my talmidim asked me, how does this statement fit with the Gemara that discusses the four categories of atonement? The Gemara clearly says that there are some aveiros for which teshuva alone does not suffice, and the person will have to endure some form of suffering in order to gain full atonement? The answer to this question is that puranus and yissurim are two different things. Puranus is the punishment that is the result of the sin. Indeed, in Maseches Makos (13) it is clear that if one does teshuva, one will not get punished. However, that does not mean that the sin is fully atoned. He still is in need of atonement. Some sins are of a severity that he can only gain full atonement if he endures some form of yissurim (suffering) – not as a punishment, but as a vehicle of atonement. (From Reb Avraham Twersky)



One day, during aseres yemei teshuva, I needed to speak to Rav Twersky about something. I found him sitting in the back of the Novardok Beis Medrash during bein ha’sedarim. He was learning Maseches Yoma, which he learned every year l’ilui nishmas his father, Rav Yitzchak Asher Twersky zt”l, whose yahrtzeit was motzei Yom Kippur. Every year, Rav Twersky made a siyum on Yoma after his private Maariv minyan. In any event, I entered the Beis Medrash and took the few steps over to where Rav Twersky was sitting. “Rebbi,” I said – somewhat timidly, since I noticed that his intensity was even more heightened than normal – “do you have a minute?” His answer, to my mind, was classic Rav Twersky. “A Yid,” he said to me with his penetrating gaze, “does not have a minute during aseres yemei teshuva. But, if you need to make the time, you make the time!” And he made the time. (Editor)

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