R. Matthia b. Heresh asked R. Eleazar b. Azariah in Rome: have you heard about the four kinds of sins, concerning which R. Ishmael has lectured? He answered: They are three, and with each is repentance connected — If one transgressed a positive commandment , and repented , then he is forgiven, before he has moved from his place; as it is said: Return, O backsliding chiidren. If he has transgressed a prohibition and repented,then repentance suspends [the punishment] and the Day of Atonement procures atonement, as it is said : For on this day shall atonement be made for you … from all your sins. If he has committed [a sin to be punished with] extirpation or death through the Beth din, and repented, then repentance and the Day of Atonement suspend [the punishment thereon], and suffering finishes the atonement, as it is said: Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with strokes. But if he has been guilty of the profanation of the Name, then penitence has no power to suspend punishment, nor the Day of Atonement to procure atonement, nor suffering to finish it, but all of them together suspend the punishment and only death finishes it
The misunderstanding is that this means a pre-mature death. I even heard someone recently say this about those who died in the 9/11 attacks. However, as I have already said this a horrible misunderstanding of what the text is trying to say.
First let’s start with a basic, human mortality is a punishment for sin. Thus Judaism teaches(Gemarra<don’t remember the tractate>, Midrash Yalkut Shimoni Yehezkel 367, Derekh Erez Zuta, and Shaarei Kedusha Part 2) that there were between six and eight people who didn’t die, but ascended to Gan Eden alive. Meaning that they were righteous enough to rectify their sins, so that they never tasted this punishment. They are Enoch, Eliezer(servant of Avraham), Bithiah(daughter of Pharoah), Elijah, Ebed-Melech, Hiram King of Tyre, and Jaabez Son of Yehuda HaNasi(Those in bold are found biblically, those in italics are not found in the Gemarra).
In the third chapter of Lev David Rav Haim Vital specifically discusses this idea of death atoning for our sins. There he makes it exhaustively clear that this does not necessarily mean an unnatural death. After 120yrs asleep in one’s bed, when HaShem requires your soul, then that will atone, so to speak. This idea that every pre-mature death is somehow a sign(l’havdil) of HaShem’s judgement, is both wrong and also hurtful. There is no need to suggest that a terrorist event such as 9/11 was caused by anything other than a group of homicidal sociopaths, dressed up in the guise of religion, to whom HaShem had given free will.