The Rambam says in Hilchos Teshuva chapter 1

עָבַר עַל כְּרֵתוֹת וּמִיתוֹת בֵּית דִּין וְעָשָׂה תְּשׁוּבָה, תְּשׁוּבָה וְיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים תּוֹלִין וְיִסּוּרִין הַבָּאִין עָלָיו גּוֹמְרִין לוֹ הַכַּפָּרָה. וּלְעוֹלָם אֵין מִתְכַּפֵּר לוֹ כַּפָּרָה גְּמוּרָה עַד שֶׁיָּבוֹאוּ עָלָיו יִסּוּרִין...

If he sinned in matters which carry excisions and deaths by a tribunal and did repent, repentance and the Day of Atonement suspend [punishment], and the pain which he suffers thereafter complete the atonement for him.

What does it mean that 'punishment is suspended' if there's still suffering that comes later? Isn't suffering a punishment too? What then is suspended?

  • The excisions and deaths?
    – Alex
    Nov 17, 2019 at 1:02
  • 1
    1. Please always include the Hebrew source, as Sefaria often mixes the source with commentaries. 2. It appears that for Rambam any suffering is better than death (?), so it should read - the deat punishment is suspended and he suffers instead.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 17, 2019 at 15:52
  • @AlBerko your comment seems to answer my question judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/109671/… Nov 18, 2019 at 20:54

1 Answer 1


This is a very interesting question. One possible answer is that G-d created the world, implanted the laws of nature, and has no further interaction with His creations. With this theory there is a long and tedious explanation for this philosophical view regarding the revelation of the Torah that does not bear repeating as it goes well beyond the scope of this answer. Yet it is essential for understanding the answer. Thus, I will give a brief summary for the sake of brevity. Simply stated, Rabbi Micah Goodman says that in the first chapter of his Mishneh Torah Rambam writes that G-d does not speak. How was the Torah revealed? Moshe looked into the laws of nature (that is a divine creation) and produced the Torah. Similarly, Abraham discovered G-d by studying the heavens, natural law. Thus, the Torah is certainly holy.[1]

So whether one wants to agree or not, there is another concept that we should recognize, that the world functions according to the laws of nature that G-d has created. One of these laws is that actions have consequences, and they can have long-lasting effects even for generations. For example, King David made a sin, an adulterous relationship with Bat Sheva.


Despite the fact that people make repentance, teshuva in Hebrew, actions have consequences, (David also repented), but due to the consequences of his actions, he suffered and his punishment came later when he discovered the immense pain he caused not only for himself but countless others.

[1] See Maimonides and the Book That Changed Judaism: Secrets of "The Guide for the Perplexed" by Micah Goodman

  • 1
    If I tell my kid not to eat candies and he eats, my punishment isn't the law of nature, I perfectly control it (seemingly). You keep trying to present G-d as Nature and thus invalidating His "freedom of choice", which is incompatible with most interpreters, besides Rambam.
    – Al Berko
    Nov 17, 2019 at 19:25
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    There is the 'Lawof Nature' -- gravity is one. If I drop my favorite plate, it breaks. I was careless and so there is the sadness. Its clear punishment can be from Hashem. Moses is just one example. But maybe he was just too old though (nature).
    – gamliela
    Nov 18, 2019 at 16:47

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