The Erev Rav
The 'mixed multitude', millions of Egyptian pseudo-converts, who came out of Egypt with the Children of Yisrael despite G-d's advice against accepting them...
The Erev Rav, Part 1 of 7
Editor’s note: Our sages teach us that the last and final exile – the exile among the “Erev Rav” – is the most challenging of all. People freely use (and misuse) the term of Erev Rav, but do we know who they are? Can we readily identify them? Breslev Israel’s Rivka Levy combed through numerous Torah sources, which resulted in the following 7-part series that we are pleased to present to our readers.
Who are the Erev Rav, and where did they come from?
When Adam HaRishon ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, evil stopped being an ‘external’ to man, and instead became internalized.
There were many consequences to this, including the following:
* Adam’s sin brought death into the world – instead of living forever, mankind now had to die
* Hashem became ‘hidden’ instead of openly revealed in the world
* Evil – the evil inclination – became a massive part of man’s spiritual and emotional psyche, and placed each one of us in a position of ‘fighting for our lives’ against the evil inclination every single day
* Good and evil became inextricably mixed up
After the sin, Adam separated from his wife, and ’emitted seed’ for 130 years (Eruvin 18b). The souls from this ‘wasted seed’ were captured by the dark side, and subsequently needed to go through many reincarnations before they could start to be purified and whitened.
The Arizal explains in Shaar Hakavanot 1b that these souls are the root of both the Erev Rav and Am Yisrael.
The 974 Generations
The Torah was given after just 26 generations, but we know from Psalms that Hashem said He’d only give it after 1000 generations – so what happened to the other 974?
The Talmud, Chagigah 13b, explains: “These are the 974 generations that were decreed to be created before the creation of the world, but were not created. The Holy One, Blessed is He, arose and ‘hangs’ them in each generation, and they are the most brazen of each generation.”
The word ‘brazen’ is a key clue to what’s going on here, and we’re going to meet it again later on in many holy works.
The Vilna Gaon explains in his book Sifra D’Tzniusa, Chapter 1, that the 974 generations are the Erev Rav.
The Arizal explains that these souls started to be rectified with the generation of the flood; then reincarnated as the generation of the dispersion; then again, as the generation in Sdom, and finally, in Egypt.
The souls who had been sufficiently rectified and purified reincarnated into Bnei Yisrael, the Children of Israel. The ones who had not been sufficiently rectified became the ‘mixed multitude’, or millions of Egyptian converts who came out of Egypt with the Children of Yisrael, despite G-d advising Moses against accepting them.
The Zohar in Ki Tisa 191A explains that the Erev Rav were false converts, who wanted to be Jews to be ‘on the winning team’ and to get all the benefits of being the servants of such a powerful ‘G-d’, as opposed to serving Hashem with their hearts and souls.
Next week, we’ll look at the first time the Erev Rav is specifically mentioned in the Torah
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Check out Rivka Levy’s new book The Happy Workshop based on the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush.