All commandments of the Torah, whether they be mandatory or prohibitive, if a man violates any one of them, either presumptuously or erroneously, when he will repent himself and turn away from his sinful way, he is obliged to confess before God, blessed is He! even as it is said: "When a man or woman shall commit any sin..… Then they shall confess their sin which they have done (Num. 5.6–7), which is a confession of words. Such confession is a mandatory commandment. How is the verbal confession made? The sinner says thus: "I beseech Thee, O Great Name! I have sinned; I have been obstinate; I have committed profanity against Thee, particularly in doing thus and such. Now, behold! I have repented and am ashamed of my actions; forever will I not relapse into this thing again." This is the elementary form of confession; but whosoever elaborates in confessing and extends this subject is, indeed, praise-worthy. Likewise all those who bring sin-offerings or trespass-offerings, when they offer their sacrifices, whether for their errors or for their spitefulness, find no atonement in their sacrifices, unless they repent, and deliver themselves of a verbal confession, even as it is said: "He shall confess that he hath sinned in that thing" (Lev. 5.5) So, too, are the guilty upon whom the tribunal pronounced either a sentence of death or of stripes, who find no atonement either in their death or in being lashed unless they do repent and make verbal confession. Even he, who injures his friend or causes him damages in money matters, although he makes restitution of what he owes him, finds no atonement, unless he makes verbal confession and repents by obligating himself never to repeat this again, even as is said: "Any sin that man commits" (Num. 5.6).1Sifra, Lev. 5; Yoma, 36b; Shebu’ot, 13a; Sanhedrin, 43a; Baba Kama, 92b.C.
The Azazel-goat, because it is atoning for all Israel, the High-Priest confesses over it in the speech of all Israel, even as it is said: "And confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel" (Lev. 16.21). The Azazel-goat, moreover, atones for all transgressions mentioned in the Torah, both, minor and major, whether one committed it in spite or whether he committed it in error, whether it was done by him knowingly or unknowingly— for all the Azazel-goat atones, provided the sinner did repent. But if he repenteth not, the Azazel-goat atones not save for his minor sins. And, what are the minor and what are the major sins? The major sins are such as carry the guilt of death or excision, included among which are also vain and false swearing, although they do not carry the guilt of excision; and all other prohibitive or mandatory commandments which do not carry the guilt of excision are the minor.2Shebu’ot, 2a; Ibid. 12b; Yoma, 85b. C.
At this time, when the Temple is not established and, therefore, no altar to atone for us, there is nothing else left for us but repentance. Repentance atones for all sins. Even one who was an evildoer all his life but repented in the end, not a thing of the wickedness is held out against him, even as it is said: "As for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall thereby in the day that he turneth from his wickedness" (Ez. 33.12). Even the Day of Atonement itself atones only for those who did repent, even as it is said: "For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you" (Lev. 16.30).3Kiddushin, 40b; Keritot, 6b; Yoma, 85b. C. G.
Even on the presumption that repentance atones for all sins, and the Day of Atonement as such, too, atones, there are yet certain sins which are wiped off at the time, and certain other sins which are are not wiped off but after a lapse of time. For example? If a man violated a mandatory commandment which does not carry the guilt of excision and did repent, he moves not from the place of prayer before he is forgiven. Of such it is said: "Return, ye backsliding children and I will heal your back-slidings" (Jer. 3.22). If he violated a prohibitive commandment which carries neither excision nor death by a tribunal, and did repent, the repentance suspends punishment, whereafter the Day of Atonement wipes out the sin. Of such it is said: "For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you" (Lev. 16. 30). 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. Forsooth, no complete atonement ever comes to the penitent before he has a visitation of suffering. Of such it is said: "Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with strokes'" (Ps. 89.32). That saying is concerning a sinner who did not blaspheme the Name in connnection with his transgression, but whosoever blasphemes the Name even he did repent, and the Day of Atonement did come and he still be a penitent, and sufferings did visit him, no complete atonement is granted to him till his death, for, repentance, the Day of Atonement and sufferings suspend punishment, and only death atones for him, even as it is said: "And it was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of hosts. Surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die" (Is. 22.14)4Yoma, 87a. C. G.