For thousands of years, the Torah never understood the Erev Rav as being anything too significant. The Gaonim and the early Rishonim barely mention them at all, if ever.
Then, suddenly, in the medieval period, the Erev Rav emerge in Jewish thought as the ultimate demon. Today, the Erev Rav feature prominently in every discussion about the End of Days. Typically, they are presented as the scapegoat for all Jewish failings – the erev rav seculars, the erev rav Rabbis (or erev zair Rabbis), etc, etc
In this blog, I myself used to put the sins of the Jews on the backs of the Erev Rav. But I was wrong. I fell into a very big trap.
I urge all of you to take a step back – What if this entire Erev Rav focus is actually a phantom concept? What if it is a yetzer hara meant to create deep suspicion and division between Jews? What does it really accomplish to say another Jew is “erev rav”? Why not just call them a Jewish person who is doing an avera?
The Netziv writes that the Second Temple was destroyed because Jews were accusing other Jews of being heretics, when, in fact, they were innocent of the charge. Today, rather than heresy, there is a new, more serious charge – erev rav. But unlike heresy, which has a halachic basis and applicable analytical criteria, the charge that another is “erev rav” is an indisputable charge based on vague and ambiguous metaphysical criteria. Calling somebody erev rav is, in truth, the Jewish version of calling somebody a “witch”.
The bigger problem with today’s erev rav mania is that the erev rav have become a scapegoat. Rather than properly blaming ourselves for the awful state of Jewish affairs, the Torah World often resorts to blaming the erev rav boogeyman. As a result, rather than doing tshuva for our sins, we blame Jews who are not really Jews, but the secret agents of the erev rav.
Please, next time you’re tempted to blame the erev rav, just call “them” Jews who are doing averas. But most likely, the targets of your erev rav accusation are likely secular Jews (Israeli gov’t figures are popular) who have the din of tinok sh’nishbod in any event.
Remember, the secular Jews who run Israel’s government are filling the gap created by the religious Jews’ failures to do our job – stopping baseless hatred among religious Jews.