In the parsha of sotah (Bamidbar 5:13) the Torah describes the woman who was secluded and had relations with another man as וְנִסְתְּרָ֖ה וְהִ֣יא נִטְמָ֑אָה meaning that she became physically defiled - ie had (extra)marital relations. To my knowledge the term tumah relates specifically to spiritual impurity. I would like to know if the Torah uses this term to describe physical impurity/defilement anywhere else besides by sotah and if not, why the term was used here?

I have seen the commentary of Hizkuni who implies that the term was used because she became ta'meh through semen, however I believe that the gemarah stipulates the woman can become ta'meh (in terms of a sotah) even if there is no g'mar be'ah, therefore I would like to find an alternative answer.

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    Can you cite that Gemara? The verse says ושכב איש אותה שכבת זרע which sounds like there is semen.
    – Double AA
    Aug 2, 2017 at 14:23
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    Even without the Gemara, ונסתרה והיא נטמאה doesn't mean (only) literal tumah in the broadest sense. She doesn't become a sotah if he throws a dead rat at her.
    – Heshy
    Aug 2, 2017 at 14:43
  • @DoubleAA regarding your revision to my edit of the question, if we know a woman became impure with another man, she doesn't drink the Sotah waters. It's only if she was warned by her husband & then we suspect she became impure do we proceed with the Sotah waters.
    – Earl
    Aug 8, 2017 at 19:15
  • @Earl That's correct, but that phrase in the verse is referring to the case where she did indeed sleep with the other guy. וְנִסְתְּרָה וְהִיא נִטְמָאָה does not mean we only suspect something.
    – Double AA
    Aug 8, 2017 at 19:17
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – Earl
    Aug 9, 2017 at 14:39

2 Answers 2


בראשית ל"ד, ה

וְיַעֲקֹ֣ב שָׁמַ֗ע כִּ֤י טִמֵּא֙ אֶת־דִּינָ֣ה בִתּ֔וֹ וּבָנָ֛יו הָי֥וּ אֶת־מִקְנֵ֖הוּ בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה וְהֶחֱרִ֥שׁ יַעֲקֹ֖ב עַד־בֹּאָֽם׃ Jacob heard that he had defiled his daughter Dinah; but since his sons were in the field with his cattle, Jacob kept silent until they came home.

יחזקא-ל י"ח, ו

אֶל־הֶֽהָרִים֙ לֹ֣א אָכָ֔ל וְעֵינָיו֙ לֹ֣א נָשָׂ֔א אֶל־גִּלּוּלֵ֖י בֵּ֣ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְאֶת־אֵ֤שֶׁת רֵעֵ֙הוּ֙ לֹ֣א טִמֵּ֔א וְאֶל־אִשָּׁ֥ה נִדָּ֖ה לֹ֥א יִקְרָֽב׃ If he has not eaten on the mountains or raised his eyes to the fetishes of the House of Israel; if he has not defiled another man’s wife or approached a menstruous woman;

  • These are all still usages of specifically improper sexual encounters.
    – Double AA
    Aug 3, 2017 at 2:53
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    @DoubleAA Isn't that what the OP asked? I understood that he was looking for sources in the torah which use tumah to define defilement other than sotah.
    – user218076
    Aug 3, 2017 at 2:59

Devarim 24:4

לֹא־יוּכַ֣ל בַּעְלָ֣הּ הָרִאשׁ֣וֹן אֲשֶֽׁר־שִׁ֠לְּחָהּ לָשׁ֨וּב לְקַחְתָּ֜הּ לִהְי֧וֹת ל֣וֹ לְאִשָּׁ֗ה אַחֲרֵי֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר הֻטַּמָּ֔אָה כִּֽי־תוֹעֵבָ֥ה הִ֖וא לִפְנֵ֣י ה' וְלֹ֤א תַחֲטִיא֙ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁר֙ ה' אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לְךָ֖ נַחֲלָֽה׃ (ס) Then the first husband who divorced her shall not take her to wife again, since she has been defiled—for that would be abhorrent to the LORD. You must not bring sin upon the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a heritage.

Rashi cites Yevamot 11b that this term includes a sotah, but is not limited thereof. Ramban explains the terms implies sexual impropriety. Cf Kiddushin 78a.

  • actually marying someone else after having devorced is not a physically defiled woman her new husband can have relations to her, she is just not allowed to return to her first husband.
    – user15464
    Oct 15, 2017 at 20:44

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