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The Rambam says in Hilchos Teshuva, chapter 6:

There are other sins for which justice determines that retribution be exacted in the world to come with no damages coming to the transgressor in this world. There are [other] sins for which retribution is taken in this world and in the world to come. When does the above apply? When [the transgressor] does not repent. However, if he repents, his Teshuvah is a shield against retribution.

This implies that Teshuva alone will attain not only forgiveness, but will also avoid retribution/punishment. But doesn't this conflict with the concept that for some sins Teshuva alone is not enough and punishment completes the atonement, as for example in Yoma 86a:

If one commits a transgression that warrants karet or a sin punishable by death from the earthly court and then repents, repentance and Yom Kippur suspend his punishment, and suffering absolves and completes the atonement

In fact, the Rambam himself quotes this Gemara in chapter 1 of Hilchos Teshuva. How can we reconcile the Rambam's statement quoted above with the Gemara?

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Perhaps an answer:

There is punishment for the sin, which is for the rebellion against G-d. This is immediately shielded by repentance.

Then, there is the process of complete atonement, which is more of a refinement or educational processes. This may require suffering to complete. Yet, this suffering is not a punishment.

For example, when the Jewish people repeatedly sinned in the desert, G-d immediately forgives them each time. Yet, after the sin of the spies, it is decreed that they will spend 40 years in the desert--despite the fact that they were already forgiven.

The 40 years in the desert was not a punishment for their rebellion, but a process of refinement so that they would have the necessary faith to enter the land of Israel.

(This answer is based on a talk by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, but I don't have the exact reference now. I'll try to add it later.)

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    Good answer. Perhaps, a small nuance / aspect is missing, that I'd think the Rebbe addressed. The Torah says that G-d disciplines us as a father disciplines his son. Thus, effective fatherly discipline would have the father forgive the son for a serious offense, but still delve a punishment / penalty so that the child understands the severity of the crime. Without the penalty, the child would learn that the father would just forgive him for every repeated offense and there would never be any consequence. – DanF Oct 4 at 19:04
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    From the language of the Rambam though - "[...] There are other sins for which justice determines that retribution be exacted in the world to come with no damages coming to the transgressor in this world [...] However, if he repents, his Teshuvah is a shield against retribution", he seems to be talking about being shielded from any kind of damage. And suffering, even if it's for refinement, is still obviously a damage - at least if we're speaking about how it appears to us. – user9806 Oct 4 at 20:18

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