Introduction Our mishnah deals with a type of corpse defilement known as “defilement of the depth.” This refers to a corpse found in a place where no one knew it had been. Figuratively, it is as if it came out of the depths. Our mishnah shall illustrate a case where it really is found in a deep place.
A nazirite shaves and then discovers that he was defiled: If the defilement was certain, it voids [the naziriteship], But if it is a defilement of the depth, it is not rendered void. If after having shaved at the completion of his naziriteship, the nazirite discovers that he had contracted corpse defilement while he was still a nazirite, if the defilement was certain, he loses his whole period of naziriteship. However, if the defilement was “defilement of the depth”, it does not void his naziriteship. This seems to be a leniency due to the nature of this type of defilement and the situation (he has already shaved).
[If he discovers that he was defiled] before shaving, in either case it voids [the naziriteship]. However, if he discovered that he had been defiled before he shaved for completing his naziriteship, either type of defilement voids his naziriteship. The leniency in the previous section no longer applies.
How is [the law regarding ‘defilement of the depth’]? If he goes down into a cavern to bathe, and a corpse is found floating at the mouth of the cavern, he is [definitely] unclean. If it is found embedded in the floor of the cavern, Then if he went in merely to cool himself off he remains clean, But if he went to purify himself after defilement through contact with the dead he remains unclean, Because the assumption concerning an unclean person is that he is unclean and the assumption concerning a clean person is that he is clean,. This section explains how “defilement of the depth” works. If he goes into a cavern to bathe and finds a corpse in the water, he is definitely unclean. If he is a nazirite, this will void the days of his naziriteship which he has already served. However, if he finds that a corpse that was embedded in the floor, this is “defilement of the depth”. In such a case there is one more question which must be asked before we can determine if he is considered unclean. If he went down just to cool off, and then later, after having shaved when completing his naziriteship, someone told him that a corpse was embedded in the floor of that cavern, he is still pure. However, if a nazirite went into the cavern to purify himself from corpse impurity, and then began to count his naziriteship again, and after completing his naziriteship and shaving, someone told him that there was a corpse in the floor of the cavern where he had earlier bathed, he is considered unclean and his naziriteship is voided. The mishnah explains that each person stays in his already-presumed status. The clean person who went into the cavern to cool off remains clean, despite having come into contact with “defilement of the depth”. But, the unclean person who used this cavern as his mikveh remains unclean, the status he was in when he came into contact with the corpse.