The Erev Rav is NOT to Blame

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.

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15 Responses to The Erev Rav is NOT to Blame

  1. Absolutely excellent post, and right on the money! Just like the serpent and the angel of death are really just our own evil inclination, there is no “erev rav” – and it’s us!

    One of the functions of idolatry is to mystify the causes of human behavior to take the explicit blame from us and place it on some amorphous force. The “kabbalah” has become the main source of such mysticism and has led people to think that there are hidden forces constraining them to do what they do.

    May HaShem remove the sources of idolatry and mysticism from our midst and lead us to true repentance. Amen, selah!

    Hazaq,

    YB

  2. Hayim says:

    EXCELLENT EXCELLENT post! I feel that you are spot on.
    I hope this post will be disseminated to all Torah Jews, ASAP.

  3. stillwaters580 says:

    Yes. Perhaps all those who are not knife-wielding, bomb loving, terrorists, simply need to consciously unite on this planet.

    “If someone comes to kill you, get up early to kill him first.”

  4. Dan G says:

    The Zohar and GRA seem to disagree with you about whether the Erev Rax will be a major player in the end of days.
    And most leftist Israeli polticians, judges, police commanders, etc. can hardly be classified as Tinok SheNishba, after they’ve shamelessly shown how cruel they can be to their brothers.

    • JJ says:

      There’s plenty of cruelty in all camps. It may take different shapes and forms, but it is there. The cruelty perpetrated by the religious is actually far crueler, because its perpetrated in the name of G-d. But these are just JEWS doing averot, not “erev rav”.

      Notwithstanding the Gra, I do not put very much weight in the Zohar. At best, application of its “erev rave” concepts to the “real world” is fraught with the risk for major errors. At worst, the Zohar is a book that was “channeled” by Moshe de Leon using names, somehow accepted by a few in his generation (certainly not all!), and is now a deeply embedded distortion that is reeking hashkofic havoc in the Torah World. Its potential for damage was muted so long as its study was limited to a few scholars, but in the hands of the masses as it is today? Oy!

      Better to just leave it alone.

      • Dan G says:

        Many have already pointed out that Beit HaMikdash was destroyed because of baseless hatred, not rightful hatred.
        Hatred is a fundamental emotion, and instead of repressing it, which will just cause it to burst out later in the wrong places, we must do our best to channel it in the right direction.
        Without classifying anyone or calling anyone names – trying not to hate those who beat up my brothers and expel them from their homes, while embracing my enemies, is just plain wrong.
        Chazal have made it very clear:
        ונשיא בעמך לא תאור – בעושה מעשה עמך.

      • JJ says:

        You are right.

        There is a means for dealing with “rightful hatred”, which is the other side of the coin of dealing with “baseless hatred”.

        I will address the parameters of “rightful hatred” in an upcoming post.

    • With all due respect to kevodho ha- GR”A, he was not a prophet and drew many of his conclusions from kabbalistic literature – most notably the Zohar. As JJ has said, it was not universally accepted when it was published and a great many kabbalists themselves rejected it or were at least suspicious of it. And it’s content is wracked and fraught with errors, heresies, and blatant contradictions to the works of Hazal. We need to stop assuming that earlier generations were ignorant of what the kabbalists knew.

      • JJ says:

        For some reason, the greatest m’kubal in Jewish history, the Ramban, DID NOT have the Zohar. One would think, at least HE, of all people, would have known about it. But he didn’t, nor did his students.

      • mavin says:

        Chutzpah for anyone of this day and age to disregard the writings of the GR’A, one of our greatest Sages of the last couple of hundred years. He and there are others who have definitely written that it will be the Erev Rav who will be in control at the end of days, when we have returned to the Land.

      • “Chutzpah”? First of all, I am not disregarding the writings of the GR”A – I am disagreeing with what he says regarding “erev rav” etc. And not only this, but also many positions halakhically that he expresses in other areas. This is completely permissible to do [see the introduction to the Mishneh Torah of the Rambam].

        Further, we not only “disregard” things said by previous – even great – Torah scholars all the time. We do it in areas of both halakhah and hashqafah. In fact, it is impossible to not do so since the scholars of previous generations all states their own views and any of them conflicted with their contemporaries and those who came before. In fact, anyone familiar owth the writings of the Gaon knows that he himself did this very thing with many of the writings which came before him.

        And do you end Shabbat according to Rabbenu Tam? Then it s chutzpah for you to disregard the writings of the GR”A in this regard. And if you end Shabbatoth, Yomim Tovim, and ta`aniyoth according to the GR”A then it is chutzpah for you to disregard the myriad of rishonim and aharonim who held like Rabbenu Tam and not like the Geonim. Do you see the problem with your statement?

        The truth of the matter is that you want to believe in the concept of “erev rav” despite its weak support in the sources and its apparently dubious origins. So instead of cogently defending it, you are engaging in ad hominem attacks – which essentially boils down to sinath hinam.

        Bring your SOURCES – as in those from Hazal – and we will at least listen to you. But to quote a vague crowd of “great sages” as if they are prophets who could predict the future for us is just a dogmatic assertion, nothing more. The Rosh was a great sage too, but when he sent Rabbi Ibn Waqar to barabrically cut off the nose of a widow suspected of illicit relations – without convening a beth din and without proper witnesses – he committed an averah. He overstepped his bounds and mutilated a woman when even a court of samukhim could only give her makkath marduth. It was wrong and it is not chutzpah to say so. He had no justification for his decision.

        We in our generation can and should say so. Kol tuv.

      • JJ says:

        Not sure why its Chutzpah to disagree with the Gr’a. Unfortunately, I personally cannot rely on any cult of personality built around Rabbaim. I’ve just seen too many Rabbis that I cannot simply “believe in”. Hazal, of course, is different in that they were a duly constituted authority (musmachim). Like the US Supreme Court, whether I agree or not (or like it or not), they have the authority.

        For me, the challenge with the whole Erev Rav thing is that the primary source is the Zohar, which is, in my studied opinion, of questionable provenance. But I am open to anybody who can explain to me how it is that the Ramban – who all agree was one of the greatest m’kubalim in history – did not have the sefer. And I am not aware of any statements by the Ramban speaking of the Erev Rav in any manner similar to that stated by the Zohar.

        But I’m all ears for anybody who could explain this to me. Again, just because the “Gra said” is not compelling enough for me. And, obviously, the Gra said many things that are not compelling enough for many Torah Jews who do not abide by his halachic rulings. But I suppose we all “pick and choose”.

  5. theresa says:

    my rabbis always taught me its wrong to be judgemental on anyone. there is only One Judge, Hashem. Lately there has been alot of unwarranted hatred, and anyone who disagrees, is labelled an erev rav. even some torah scholars. i dont see the chofetz chaim’s lessons being practised in some blogs, at all. its so good to read this article, and its made me feel there is still sanity in the world. THANK YOU.

  6. stillwaters580 says:

    Under serious attack no one will be able to worry about what is going on in all the other camps, or about past wrongs. The current moment, if such an attack happens, will be all that matters. “If someone comes to kill you, get up early to kill him first.” I heard that if we rise up early (first) we will not even have to kill our enemy, it will not have to go that far. I’m praying for this scenario, of course. In the meantime, it seems the essential first step to our rising up early involves our consciousness, how we choose to view the situation in each evolving moment. It appears all comes down to us to look for the “potential” good while knowing it is there waiting to reveal itself nonetheless; even though we don’t see or understand how. Obviously this is not easy, never has been. But we want to be ready for, and even invite, the possibility and potential for things to change fast, even if miraculously, for the good. And whose to say when this moment could, or should, arrive?

  7. Yosef says:

    Well said. I admire and respect your honesty and loyalty towards goodness.

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