Who Were the Erev Rav Really?

The Torah only mentions the Erev Rav or the Asafsuf (who might be the same people) briefly. Today Erev Rav is used a lot in some circles. But who were the Erev Rav really?

The accepted interpretation is that they were non-Jewish slaves, criminals and foreigners in Egypt who accompanied the Jews on their exodus. This isn’t impossible, but it’s not really likely. Why would Moshe have accepted a large number of foreigners on the way out? There was no conversion yet. Yitro, the first Ger only arrived around or after Har Sinai when the Torah was given. The Egyptians would not have agreed to free non-Jewish slaves or prisoners. Remember, they even chased after their Jewish slaves and only let them go after incredible devastation. And why would non-Jews have volunteered to go into the desert with no real hope of survival, and then wanted to return?

There’s a simple alternative answer that covers all these points. Who were the Mixed Multitude really? They were mixed. They were the children of Egyptian men and Jewish women. We encounter one of them as the blasphemer, but he was probably representative of the Erev Rav as a whole.

Accepted interpretations claim that he was the only such case. We know how unrealistic this is. Kohanim whose wives were in captivity had to divorce them because the halachic position is that captivity means a high probability of rape. If the Egyptians could enslave the men and kill the children, could they rape their women. Obviously yes.

When Pharaoh gave the order to kill. He only ordered the deaths of male babies. Female babies survived. His goal was to have Jewish women, while wiping out Jewish men. Egyptians obviously wanted Jewish women. The Jewish people survived his attack. Polygamy may have even been a defense mechanism against this type of ethnic cleansing. But there still would probably have been a surplus female population. And some Jews did become corrupted in Egypt. So some Jewish women may have even been voluntarily mistresses or concubines to Egyptian men.

The children of rape or even voluntary liaisons with Egyptian men would have become the Erev Rav. To the Egyptians they were Jews. To the Jews they were Egyptians. After the 10th Plague, the Egyptians may have in their panic banished anyone with Jewish blood from their country. Or the Erev Rav might have gone willingly.

But in the desert things changed. In Egypt, the Erev Rav might have held a higher status than full blooded Jews, the way that in the American South light skinned blacks of mixed race were House Slaves. But in the desert they were lower ranked. In a camp based on tribal divisions, the Erev Rav belonged nowhere. They were “rabble”, a mixed group without their own tribal leadership. They didn’t answer to anyone, and could get into all kinds of trouble. Pecking order would be established not by descent, the way it was with the tribes, but through Prison Yard showdowns.

No surprise then that the Erev Rav kept bringing up the theme of going back to Egypt. Among the Egyptians, they might have been considered Jews, but among the Jews, they started seeing themselves as Egyptians. In Egypt, they were superior because they were part of the master race. Among the Jews, they were inferior for that same reason.

And if things were bad in the desert, they were only going to get worse, if the Jews actually made it to Israel where land was allotted based on tribal divisions. Again by the father. Which is why the Erev Rav did everything it could to stop the Jews from getting there. What the Erev Rav wanted most of all was to get back to Egypt. But they settled for sabotaging any progress the Jews made along the way. Because any progress in Jewish nationhood would set back their status even more, and make it harder to push for a return to Egypt.

There’s no way to know how large the Erev Rav was. But even a 1000 men with no leadership structure and a sense of grievance can do a lot of damage.

In more modern times, Erev Rav came to mean any fifth column or foreign element among the Jews. Today It usually means people who might be biologically Jews or members of the Jewish community, but whose real allegiances lie elsewhere. This is what makes them “mixed”. They have a mixture of Jewish ethnicity but alien loyalties. And this makes them act as a fifth column, obstructing and sabotaging the Jewish people.

Erev Rav is used today for everyone from Jewish anti-Israel activists to Jewish leaders who pursue goals not in the interests of their communities. It doesn’t mean that their parentage is mixed, but that their loyalties are. The Erev Rav were living together with the Jewish people, but not part of it. In the same way the Erev Rav today is part of the Jewish community, but has a different destination in mind.

16 thoughts on “Who Were the Erev Rav Really?

  1. When I get caught up in factional nonsense, I have a mental exercise. I visualise all parties to machlokis not in kippa sruga, streimel or any other denominating garb but in a striped lager uniform, shaven headed. Then I switch back to 2010 and say “I’m inventing my own achdus instead of using the German/European/Arab kind. An achdus from love and the underlying realisation that even if we fight, that we are family.

    A consoling thought is to compare the body count of our own idiotic arguments with those of those who claim to be descended from Ishmael. Here is my take on the whole sorry mess.



  2. I don’t know how I did it, but the above comment was meant to be on that disgraceful demonstration in Israel. Sorry

  3. ploni says:

    It is true today that many Jews have not yet learned in detail the concept of the Erev Rav — who they are, where they came from, what they want, what they will do. If they had, you would understand what is happening today and why we see the behaviors that we do. With this knowledge none of us would react in anger, indignation, or disgust by moving away from G-d, Our Father Who loves us but closer to Him.

    The Erev Rav were the non-Jewish elite of Egypt. Unlike the Jews, the Erev Rav were immersed in a lifestyle based on black magic, divination, exorcism, necromancy, and other forms of sorcery. They feared and despised the Jews, new strangers among them, so they convinced Pharoah to murder all Jewish baby boys.

    The Erev Rav were Egypt’s ruling class, its elite, and they craved only one thing — power, that is, power to rule over people and control them.

    After the Ten Plagues, when G-d Almighty revealed Himself and His Power in the world, the Erev Rav realized they were nothing before G-d and His People Israel — that their time for ruling others was over. So they begged Moshe to admit them to the Jewish nation because, as Jews, they hoped to continue to wield power, this time over the humble Jewish people.

    Moshe agreed. But the Zohar states that G-d warned Moshe that this was a mistake, that the Erev Rav were insincere and should be pushed away. However, Moshe saw that the Erev Rav are the quintessence of evil in the physical world and, like him, are the expression of the Sefirah of Daas in the physical realm — only on the Other Side, the side of evil.

    Kabbalah teaches us that Moshe knew that only by making the Erev Rav into Jews could he subjugate their evil and transform them to the realm of holiness, thus bringing Messiah and the Complete, Eternal Redemption.

    G-d warned Moshe that just as the Erev Rav craved power as the Gentile elite of Egypt, so will they crave power as members of the Jewish people.

    G-d, Torah, Jewish Law, fellow Jews, the Land . . . nothing was ever dear to them except one thing: to grab and maintain power. That is why almost immediately after the Giving of the Torah, the newly Jewish Erev Rav (the Sages state the Erev Rav were 1.2 million to 4 million in number — about one-half to more than a million more than the Jews themselves!) rebelled against G-d when Moshe did not descend from Mount Sinai as expected. They used their knowledge of Tumah-evil to create a vision convincing the Jews that Moshe had died and then demanded that Aharon the High Priest create a Golden Calf idol. When Moshe’s and Aharon’s nephew Chur stood up to them, the Erev Rav killed him. Nothing and no one would get in their way.

    The souls of the Erev Rav, says the Torah, will exist until the Coming of the Moshiach and will animate Jewish bodies in every generation. In this last generation before the Moshiach’s arrival, the souls of the Erev Rav will predominate and also dominate the non-Erev Rav souls of the generation.

    Consequently, in every generation, the Erev Rav will promote their agenda of rebellion to G-d and subversion of G-d’s plans for Torah and the Jewish nation.

    The insidiousness of this is that this evil is within our own nation.

    In fact, if we study Jewish history, we can see clearly that in every generation in which the Jews were pressured physically or spiritually by the Gentiles, it was the Erev Rav of that generation who — may G-d save us! — came to help the Gentile oppressors.

    The Hellenists of the Chanukah story; the Jewish guests at Achavarosh’s feast prior to the Purim miracle; the Maskilim of the “Enlightenment”; the Jewish Communists who informed on their fellow Jews who so courageously upheld Torah and mitzvos in Russia; the secular Jewish elite worldwide, who grovel continually before Washington and Moscow; the Leftists, who import every repugnant, Gentile practice into the Land; the stewards of the secular State of Israel; and, yes, even most (but not all!) so-called Orthodox rabbis worldwide, whose silence and inaction on communal matters (secularization, livelihoods, contentious strife among communities) and the Land of Israel (terror, Gush Katif, Jerusalem) are unconscionable . . . these are the Erev Rav today.

    According to the Vilna Gaon, the Erev Rav will not just be average Jews but the elite of the day, the “head,” just as they were in Egypt; they are called “rav” — like a rav, a rabbi, an elevated individual — “because they are the heads of the nation in the Exile.”

    This is why three times each day we say the bracha V’laMalshinim, the nineteenth blessing added to the original eighteen of the Shemonah Esrai prayer. It refers to the three completely unclean forces which correspond to Israel’s three mortal enemies: Esav, Yishmael, and the Erev Rav, who must and will be utterly destroyed.

    But the Erev Rav are Jews (who will have a tremendous descent and spiritual rebuilding to do after Moshiach is revealed)! That’s why the word u’semager in V’laMalshinim. It means “lehashpil — “to cast down”; the elite Erev Rav today will be cast down from the lofty position they’ve enjoyed during our Exile.

    “Whoever does not oppose the Erev Rav,” states the Vilna Gaon, “is aiding them and it would be better that he had never been born.”

    Of course, the Erev Rav do not publicize or teach these concepts; it’s bad for business. Many Jews, especially the observant, just see the Erev Rav’s hypocrisy, conniving, lying, thievery, and apathy without understanding its historical Torah origins and context. They oftentimes just react out of anger, shame, and disgust . . . and most usually against the Almighty and His holy mitzvos. This is especially true with the thousands of young Jews who have left Yiddishkeit or who have decreased their observance. If they would only come to learn about this concept and its tremendous spiritual challenge before us!

    Therefore know, my brethren, what is happening to us, and what we must do to stay close to G-d. He tests us so out of His great love for us, and knows we can succeed.

    May He bless you and your families always.

  4. ploni says:

    Please replace the first paragraph above with this:

    It is true today that many Jews have not yet learned in detail the concept of the Erev Rav — who they are, where they came from, what they want, what they will do. If they would, they would not only understand what is happening today but would gain the spiritual strength to keep battling for G-d with renewed determination. With this knowledge none of us would react in anger, indignation, or disgust by moving away from G-d, Our Father Who loves us but actually closer to Him.


  5. Pep says:

    Zorah 1:28 states that the first man “Adam” contained Erev Rav which caused him to sin. Therefore they cannot be the Egyptian mongrels. Another Rabbi is telling me that Erev Rav are descendants of the shattering (primates), but Zorah 1:27 states that they are the souls of the fallen. Go figure….

  6. Djavo says:

    *…whoever wrote the above comments, I feel the love within…the approach to this article presented is extraordinarily interesting and fascinating…the essence of opinions vary in a fashion that challenges the human mind…good job…
    …Speaking for myself…it is more difficult , to be honest , to criticize my own persona instead of pointedly laying blame to a particular individual or a group of people in that matter…in other words…one cannot claim to be perfectly competent….unless we are talking about ” Adonai” …to me…all Jews are holy*…whether by birth or whether by choice….as a simple common rule…” we shall find truth only by loving the Jewish Nation, cherishing its numerous colors, backgrounds, ethnicity and take into heart their teachings…’ we can only know our teachers, by loving them…’ “the magnitude and intensity is entirely up to each and every one of us…Toda & Bavack Asha& Shana Tova…*

  7. Pep says:

    My comment above, please change the word “but” to “and”…

  8. An Inquirer says:

    actually, it’s my experience that it’s not just the Jewish leaders, though they’re a factor too. It’s also those who pose as chesed organizations, but who act totally rude. It’s also among alot of the general jewish population today, who are rude & crude. They say they’ll get back to you, then immediately put you out of their mind. They let everything slide right off without making a dent unless **they** consider it important. They pretend that whatever they’re doing at any given moment, is more important than your trying to get their attention. This includes body language, such as turning away, or looking thru you. If you’re female and they’re male, and you’re attempting to get onto a bus, they hog the way, get on first & blatantly block the aisle, preventing you from sitting. This happened to me, though the jerk was 1/2 my age & twice my strength. Yet another time, a rude guy failed to remove the bags near him in a bus shelter, preventing me from taking the seat. Instead, the modern “knitted kipa” guy on his other side, was nice enough to get up. So I said, “no way! there’s an empty seat!” There’s way more to the story, involving more rude/crude guys. But to my thorough disillusionment, i’m finding that the more modern the guy is these days, the more confident I am that I won’t be treated nastily. I’ve also experienced handymen who say they’ll return my call but never do. Repeatedly! When the guy finally did come (late of course), he left his low-paid worker who did a shoddy job, then overcharged. This place has also developed such a bad reputation, that anyone normal from surrounding areas refuses to come, because they know they won’t get paid. I was told this bluntly by one of them. There’s so much more ad nauseum. Such as constantly drawing shallow conclusions about others, constantly hanging up on them mid-sentence, ZERO middot, ZERO savlanut, ZERO empathy. So why should I not feel ashamed of being Jewish, living in the midst of this madness?? Tell me that, if you will..

  9. samuraimohel says:

    What does occasionally encountering rude people have to do with being ashamed of being Jewish?

  10. scupro says:

    Spirits incarnate, living as humans in our midst; moving openly and freely, yet undetected by the masses, or even their hosts. Like the spasms of a decapitated body, the fact of the matter, that’s precisely what it is; if you really think about it. Their illusions are many, which overtake the sleepwalking masses. Now know that they do take flesh and walk among men, to mold a new species. Puppet masters, the supersession of humanity. Die young, stay pretty. Just a message for the stoke: SaintVeil

  11. Nechash says:

    The real battle is one of orderly chaos versus eternal annihilation. The Erev Rav are those who from the earliest of days have awakened to the realization that individual godhood is possible and that a permanent physical habitation is ideal. The Erev Rav are not one race of mortal being, but a spiritual creature who existed within the embodiment of the primordial being long before our disintegration. They are those who planted the seed of knowledge to overthrow the tree of life and to ensnare the baffled king for all of time. They are reincarnated into every generation as both Jew and Gentile as the Brazen Few who are capable of pushing our individual evolution forward towards a state of complete independence and eventual perfection.

    The real triumph will not be the coming of the Messiah or the submission to the self-annihilation of our sorrowful creator, but the synthesis of a new reality from the ashes of our past so that the Erev Rev can overcome the shackles of the ego to tame the greatest adversary so that we can transcend our limitations to become self-perpetuating beings in an independent and permanent multi-verse.

  12. S. Norris says:

    Beautiful. One’s delusions of reality can be greater than the masses ignus fatuus, though. Either way, the Erev Rav are still out there, feeding off of fickle souls owned by headless corpses too busy drinking chocolate martinis instead of the sweet waters of Torah.

  13. scupro says:

    An Inquirer’s discernment is truly amazing; and mutual. Yet, such reality always slips my mind; and to the point that it’s nearly impossible to walk in such truth (reality). The six festival day eclipses of 2014-15 will hopefully have some influence.

  14. MFranks says:

    In a sicha from Chukas 5748 the Rebbe says:
    The real meaning of Geula in general is that the true metzius (being, reality) of a person that was in exile, is liberated and revealed. In exile, a person is not in his accustomed place or position, and therefore he is limited and cannot “expand himself” and act naturally and in his accustomed way (according to his inner, essential self) as he acts in his own home. Geula means being liberated from all limitations, and returning to one’s true and proper place and standing, and therefore one is able to express himself and act expansively as he sees fit. Transforming the exile into redemption. “The Rebbe’s teaching that the difference between exile (Golah) and redemption (Ge’Ulah) is the letter “Aleph,” which the Alter Rebbe says represents the “Alupho Shel Olam,” i.e. G-d. It follows that the geulah is the revelation of the da’as, and end to the “spiritual poverty.” The elimination of doubt and conjecture and the clear perception of truth.

    Can it be said that the Erev Rav (within) are the block/blindness, exile/diaspora? In order to save the Gentiles, purgatory, and/or to hurry the end? Exile of humanity = usurp/supersession of humanity, possession trance? Off with his head: Puppet masters, the supersession of humanity?

  15. I put Peter Beinhart, Tzipi Livini and Shimon Peres at the top of the list for the modern Erev Rav.

  16. myth buster says:

    Whatever the background, it is clear that the worst enemy of the Jewish people has always been traitors in their own ranks. Without those traitors leading the children of Israel away from the Lord, no external enemy of the Jews could ever have succeeded. When Israel was faithful to the Lord, none could stand against them. When Israel was unfaithful, however, Israel could not stand against even the weakest of their enemies. Now these deceivers take many forms (I use present tense because they still exist today): Some practiced forbidden arts and enticed Israel to commit idolatry, others were usurpers, seeking priestly or kingly status that had not been given to them and substituting popularity for divine authority, with the most brazen even claiming to be the Messiah. Still others were false prophets, telling the rulers and the people what they wanted to hear, rather than what they needed to hear. Some were scholars of the Law, but instead of teaching the Law, subverted it. Some were greedy for money and/or power, and therefore sold out their people to alliances with pagan nations, even assisting the persecutors of Jews in their persecution. All these did deceive many Jews and brought calamity after calamity on them, but God will not allow His people to be destroyed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s