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I finally got to Number chapter 26 and read this:

בְּנֵי יְהוּדָה עֵר וְאוֹנָן וַיָּמָת עֵר וְאוֹנָן בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן׃

Born to Judah: Er and Onan. Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan.

Then I remembered that I read almost the same thing in Genesis 38:8

And Judah said to Onan: Come to your brother's wife and take her in levirate marriage, and establish seed for your brother, [the son being called by the latter's name].

How is this possible? Were they reincarnated for some reason while the Israelites were on the journey?

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  • See also Numbers 26:61. – Alex Jun 19 '19 at 11:56
  • How do these verses suggest they were reincarnated? Does reincarnation even occur? – Turk Hill Sep 8 '20 at 20:31
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No. They were not reincarnated.

Genesis 38- they're being mentioned in the present tense of the story.

Numbers 26- after the plague that killed many people in Klal Yisrael (see previous chapter), the Torah takes a census of the people remaining by going through each of the 12 tribes.

Since the Torah is starting from Yehuda and discusses his descendants, Er and Onan are mentioned.

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  • Present tense of the story? Have I been reading wrong? Does that happen a lot in Genesis? Are there other such examples of Genesis mentioning something in present tense? – Israel B. Jun 20 '19 at 9:26
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Not "on the journey," but there are indeed Kabbalistic sources that say that Er and Onan were reincarnated as Peretz and Zerach. One such source is Pri Etz Chaim, by R' Chaim Vital, one of the star disciples of the Arizal.

(Ohr Hachaim, Bereishis 46:12 explains somewhat differently: they were reincarnated as Chetzron and Chamul, the sons of Peretz.)

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