If I understand correctly, proper teshuva for sins between man and G-d removes punishment (Hilchot Teshuvah 2:9):

Neither repentance nor the Day of Atonement atone for any save for sins committed between man and God, for instance, one who ate forbidden food, or had forbidden coition and the like;

Further, we read (Hilchot Teshuvah 6:2):

That is saying concerning a sinner as long as he did not repent; but if he did repent, repentance to him is then a coat of armor against punishment. And, to the same extent that man sins consciously and of his own free will, he should turn to repentance consciously and of his own free will.

We also see in Hilchot Teshuvah 2:9 that adultery seems to be a sin between man and G-d according to Rambam.

Therefore, proper teshuva should remove punishment for this sin, shouldn't it?

However, in Mishlei 6:29 we read:

כֵּ֗ן הַ֭בָּא אֶל־אֵ֣שֶׁת רֵעֵ֑הוּ לֹ֥א יִ֝נָּקֶ֗ה כָּֽל־הַנֹּגֵ֥עַ בָּֽהּ׃

It is the same with one who sleeps with his fellow’s wife; None who touches her will go unpunished.

Therefore, does atonement for adultery always require punishment or only if one didn't do proper teshuva?

  • 1
    Highly related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/90534/… Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 21:31
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    The mishle says that if he believes that he can make this sin secretly, nothing will happen, he is wrong.
    – kouty
    Commented Nov 14, 2019 at 21:35
  • See Hilchos Teshuvah 1:4, that aveiros that involve kareis or misas beis din (adultery being an example of the latter) require teshuvah, Yom Kippur, and yisurin (suffering) for full atonement.
    – Meir
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 14:30
  • Acts of consequence. Even though King David repented, he still payed for his sins.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 16:50
  • However, you can still repent by remembering not to do it again and apologizing to the person hurt. As well as verbally doing Teshuvah before G-d. See Rambam.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 16:55

2 Answers 2


Rambam himself writes (Teshuvah 1:4):

עָבַר עַל כְּרֵתוֹת וּמִיתוֹת בֵּית דִּין וְעָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה, תְּשׁוּבָה וְיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים תּוֹלִין וְיִסּוּרִין הַבָּאִין עָלָיו גּוֹמְרִין לוֹ הַכַּפָּרָה.

If he violated [something whose punishment is] excision or death by the courts and he repented, repentance and Yom Kippur suspend [judgement] and suffering which comes upon him completes the atonement.

As adultery is a sin for which the punishment is death by the courts (Vayikra 20:10), it would fall into this category where repentance simply isn't enough and suffering is required.

  • So how do you reconcile that with his other statement "That is saying concerning a sinner as long as he did not repent; but if he did repent, repentance to him is then a coat of armor against punishment." ?
    – user9806
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 18:09
  • @user9806 Where does he say that? The simple answer off-the-cuff is that that’s referring to only מצוות עשה, where he says earlier in the piece I quoted that Teshuvah alone is indeed sufficient, or even לאו שאין בו כרת ומיתה where Teshuvah and Yom Kippur together are sufficient, but I’d have to see the piece inside to see if that works in context.
    – DonielF
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 18:16
  • @user9806 I‘m just blind, it’s right in the OP. Rokeach on the spot says he means that in the sense he discussed in the end of chapter 1, in my quote.
    – DonielF
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 19:07
  • Can you expand on that Rokeach? Does he say that "repentance is a coat of armor against punishment" really means "repentance suspends judgement, and suffering completes atonement"? If so, that seems difficult since 'punishment' usually refers to suffering.
    – user9806
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 19:38
  • @user9806 He just says “Teshuvah is a coat of armor before punishment - in the manner which Rabbeinu wrote at the end of chapter 1, see there.”
    – DonielF
    Commented Nov 15, 2019 at 19:59

Mishlei is generally teaching a practical morality. It is about life, not about the soul after death.

Someone who messes with another man's wife will be burned from having held her, as one who holds coals. (See the preceding pesukim.) This is true here and now, and has nothing to do with teshuva.

Teshuva may be possible, but it would be necessary and difficult, because of the damage done by his actions. Mishlei does not say that the damage is permanent, but that it is guaranteed and severe, and is something the sinner will have to bear.

It is also worth considering that Mishlei is using adultery as a prototypical example of foolish immediate gratification while ignoring the moral law. Mishlei is teaching us a widely applicable moral lesson using adultery as an example, and it was not written to teach us the halachos of adultery.


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