Chukas 19:14, with Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's translation (brackets in his original):

זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה אָדָם כִּי יָמוּת בְּאֹהֶל כָּל הַבָּא אֶל הָאֹהֶל וְכָל אֲשֶׁר בָּאֹהֶל יִטְמָא שִׁבְעַת יָמִים.‏

When a man dies in a tent, this is the law: Everything that comes into the tent or was [originally] in the tent shall be unclean for seven days.

(The "was [originally]" is how I read the verse before checking commentaries/translations, and doesn't contradict any of the commentaries I've seen AFAIR. Nor, indeed, can I think what the verse is referring to if not to something in the tent at the time of death.)

Why does it mention first things that enter the tent after death and only then things that were in the tent at death, rather than listing them chronologically?

  • 1
    Tumat Biah exists elsewhere (by Metzora') which is listed earlier (though Ein Mukdam..) so this could be a Kol Shekein of sorts? cf Lev 14:46-47
    – Double AA
    Jul 2, 2017 at 3:00
  • see sifre piska126
    – kouty
    Jul 2, 2017 at 14:48

1 Answer 1


In Sifrei's discussion of this verse (Sifrei Bamidbar 126), the Midrash explores various possible explanations for this verse including two apparently-redundant phrases. It concludes that they come to include both items that are literally in the tent and those that are in the ground under the tent.

Targum Yonatan on this verse interprets these two phrases, respectively, as people who enter the tent and things that are part of the tent and it's furnishings:

דָא אַחְוָויַית אוֹרַיְתָא גְבַר אֲרֵי יְמוֹת תְּחוֹת גַנָנָא דְפָרִיס כָּל מַאן דְעָלִיל לְמַשְׁכְּנָא אוֹרַח תַּרְעָא וְלָא מִן צִדְדֵיהּ כִּדְפָתַח תַּרְעֵיהּ מִכָּל דִבְמַשְׁכְּנָא וַאֲפִילוּ קַרְקָעִיתֵיהּ וְאַבְנוֹי וְקִיסוֹי וּמָנוֹי יְהֵי מְסָאָב שׁוּבְעָא יוֹמִין

This is the indication of the law concerning a man when he hath died under the outspread tent every one who entereth into the tent by the way of the door, but not from its side, when its door is open, (or when one hath opened its door,) and whatever is in the tent, its floor, stone, wood, and vessels, shall be unclean seven days.

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