The Erev Rav Part 4: Characteristics and Traits

“[They come] from their root, and are actually connected to them, for the Erev Rav is also from the sod of Da’at; the gematria of Erev Rav is ‘Da’at’ . . . as the Rav (Arizal) has written in Sha’ar HaPossukim and Likutim, Parashas Shemos. The good amongst them, a small minority, are from the Da’at of Zehr Anpin [in the Sefirot] and will be separated out in the future; they are from the essence of that which was the root of the 974 Generations; their evil is just the continuation of the evil of the 974 Generations. From these come all the evil people, damagers, and klipot, and with respect to them it says, “Let a thousand encamp (yipol) at your side” (Tehillim 91:7; ‘yipol’ can also mean “will fall”). This is ongoing, and the birrur is continuous through the evil of the Erev Rav, whose pneumonic is ‘Nega Ra’ (nun-gimmel-ayin, raish-ayin; literally, “a bad plague,” but the letters stand for: Nefilim, Giborim, Amalekim, Refaim, and Anakim, the five types of Erev Rav mentioned by the Zohar; #3). The good amongst them are the essence of the 974 Generations . . . and they are continuously being separated out either through Torah and mitzvos, or refinement and whitening [from difficult events] . . . and [these from] the 974 Generations will be rectified in the future.’[1]

The Zohar (1:25,26) explains that there are five categories of erev rav:

  1. The Amalekites ­ who makes themselves leaders by force, and are scourges to Israel
  2. The Nefilim (or ‘fallen ones’) ­ who fall into fornication with fair women
  3. The Gibborim (‘mighty ones’) ­ these men build synagogues and yeshivot and place in them Torah Scrolls with rich ornaments, but they do it not for the sake of G­ d, but only to make themselves a name
  4. The Refaim (‘weak ones’) ­ who if they see Israel in trouble, abandon them, even though they are in a position to help them, and they also neglect the Torah and its students in order to ingratiate themselves with non­Jews.
  5. The Anakim (‘giants’) ­ who tend to bring the world back to the state of ‘tohu vabohu’ (shapeless and formless – chaos) and caused the destruction of the temple.

In his book Even Shlema, the Vilna Gaon writes that the selection and purification of Israel will not be complete until the erev rav separates from Israel completely, because they are very attached to the Jews and the Jews learn from their actions.

“Adam, the first Man, sinned because of the souls of the `erev rav he contained – they caused him to sin. Similarly, Moshe Rabbeinu… because of the “erev rav” came to make mistakes. And these are the `erev rav that they desire to be the spiritual authorities and of great status and jump forward to teach (religious conduct) though they have not reached that level”[2]

The Gaon of Vilna writes: “You should know that there are five kinds of `erev rav.”[3]

The five types of Erev Rav:

  • Those that create strife and commit lashon harah (evil tongue)
  • Those who pursue lustful desires (prostitution, etc.)
  • Those who pretend to be tzaddikim, but who’s hearts are far from HaShem
  • Those who pursue honor to make a name for themselves
  • Those who pursue money

The Vilna Gaon goes on to define the erev rav:

…and the argumentative kind are the equivalent of all of them: they are called `Amalekim, and the son of Dovid will not come until they have passed out of this world, for it is of them that we recite timche et zekher `Amalek – “You shall erase the memory of Amalek”

With all the information presented by our sages, we have established some important traits that could help us to identify the erev rav.

  1. The erev rav are originally Egyptians
  2. The erev rav are illegitimate converts
  3. The erev rav are sorcerers and magicians
  4. The erev rav are the same people that went against Moshe and Aharon
  5. The erev rav were responsible for the golden calf
  6. The erev rav are responsible for much of Israel’s trouble, including the destruction of both temples
  7. The erev rav make themselves leaders by force
  8. The erev rav seek to make names for themselves
  9. The erev rav abandon Israel when she is in trouble
  10. The erev rav neglect Torah and its students to gain favor with goyim
  11. The erev rav were and are men in high positions such as Rabbi’s and religious leaders.
  12. The erev rav create strife and speak lashon harah (evil tongue)
  13. The erev rav pursue carnal desires
  14. The erev rav pretend to be tzaddikim (righteous ones), but their hearts are far from HaShem
  15. The erev rav pursue money and materialism
  16. The erev rav robbed from fellow Jews

[1] Sha’arei Leshem, p. 437

[2] Yahel Ohr, commentary on Zohar 1:28: beginning with uMoshe b’gineihu.

[3] Adderet Eliyahu, commentary on Deut. 1:1 (325)

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