What is the Erev Rav?

The Erev Rav were the sorcerers and magicians of Egypt who Moshe took out of Egypt in spite of Hashem’s warning not to take them along

“The Erev Rav delay the redemption much more than all the nations of the World”  (Raaya Mehemna-Sefer Ha Zohar)

The first time the Erev Rav appears in the Torah:

“The Children of Israel traveled from Ramses towards Succot. There were about 600,000 adult males on foot, besides the children. The Erev Rav also went up with them”. (Shemot 12:37-38)

‘AND WHEN THE PEOPLE SAW THAT MOSHE DELAYED (boshesh) TO COME DOWN OUT OF THE MOUNT. The word “people” denotes the “mixed multitude”. And who were the “mixed multitude”? Were they Lydians, Ethiopians, or Cyprians? Were they not all Egyptians, and did they not all come from Egypt? If they had consisted of a mixture of many different nations, would not the plural verb ‘Alu (went up) have been used instead of singular Ala (Ex. XII, 38)? In fact, however, the “mixed multitude” consisted entirely of one people all the members of which spoke one language: namely, all the sorcerers of Egypt and all its magicians, as it is written, “And the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments” (Ex. 7, 2); for they wanted to oppose the wonderful works of the Holy One, blessed be He. When they saw the signs and the wonders which Moshe wrought in Egypt they came to Moshe to be converted. Said the Holy One to Moshe: “Do not receive them” Moshe, however, replied: “Sovereign of the universe, now that they have seen Your power they desire to accept our Faith, let them see Your power every day and they will learn that there is no G-d like You.” And Moshe accepted them. (ZOHAR HA KADOSH KI TISSA 191A)


Rebbi Yirmiyah son of Elazar said: All the years Adam was in excommunication, he fathered Ruchin, Shiddin, and Lillin [Demons and evil spirits], as it says, “Adam lived 130 years and he fathered a son in his likeness and his image” (Bereishis 5:3), implying that until then, he fathered those unlike his form. This was questioned, for Rebbi Meir said: Adam HaRishon was extremely pious, because when he saw that he had brought about the punishment of death, he sat in fasting for 130 years, and separated from his wife for 130 years as well! (This implies that he was unable to father anything for that duration of time. However, the Talmud answers:) He wore a belt of date branches over his skin for 130 years which forced him to emit seed (and produce the souls mentioned above). (Eruvin 18b)


All the ‘Shiddin’ and ‘Ruchin’ that they created during the 130 years that Adam separated from Chava, as it is known, were all elevated and holy souls from the level of Da’as (in the Sefiros; according to the Arizal, ‘Erev Rav’ is equal in gematria to the word ‘da’as’ [474] ; Aitz Chaim, Sha’ar 32, Perek 2). However, they became mixed together with the K’lipos (Negative Forces), and, as a result, require many gilgulim (reincarnations) to ‘refine’ and ‘whiten’ (i.e., to rectify) them. This is why the Jewish nation did not come into being until Ya’akov’s time, because until that time, most of the souls were intermingled with the K’lipos, and were in a process of refinement and reincarnation from generation to generation. They didn’t begin their tikun (rectification) until Ya’akov, the ‘chosen’ of the Forefathers who rectified Adam HaRishon. That was also when his sons began their tikun . . . throughout the Egyptian exile. This is the underlying meaning of the verse, “Could any other god come and take a nation out from within a nation?” (Devarim 4:34). Chazal teach: It does not say “a PEOPLE within a nation,” rather, “a NATION from within a nation,” because that is what really occurred since they were well within the midst of the K’lipos (Egypt), and were a nation like them. They were then refined, purified, and taken out from the midst of that nation literally. The beginning of their gilgulim was in the Generation of the Flood . . . This is the deeper meaning of the verse, “God regretted that He made THE MAN [HA ADAM] on the land”  (Bereishis 6:7), which refers to the Generation of the Flood. This hinted to the fact that they were on the level of Adam (Man) HaRishon himself, emanating from him during the 130 years (the Arizal brings many more possukim discussing the evil of this generation to support this point) . . . Next, they reincarnated as the Generation of the Dispersion, and were evil like their fathers . . . This is what is written, “God went down to see the city and the tower that mankind (literally, “son of THE MAN”) built” (Bereishis 11:5). As the elucidates (Bereishis 75a): Literally, son of “the Man,” Adam HaRishon, to hint to the fact that they were literally his sons . . . The third reincarnation was as the people S’dom, and therefore it says, “The people of S’dom were evil and sinned greatly against God” (Bereishis 13:13), to hint that their evil was the result of the destroyed seed of Adam, which was called “evil” . . . After these three gilgulim over three generations . . . they returned a fourth time in Egypt, in B’nei Israel, born into the generation of that exile, at which time the Tikun finally began . . . (Arizal, Sha’ar HaKevanos 1b)

Of course, the missing link is the following:

All the souls that were rectified completely reincarnated into the Children of Israel and were the generation that went down to Egypt. However, there were souls that were not yet rectified, and they became Egyptians. Yosef had them circumcised, as it says, “Go to Yosef and do whatever he tells you to do” (Bereishis 41:55) . . . Also, Ya’akov, his father, made many converts in Egypt (Bereishis Rabbah 84:4). Those who converted and did Milah lived apart from the rest of Egyptian society and stood out amongst the rest of the Egyptians. Pharaoh noticed these two levels, and it is with respect to the converts that he said, “The people, the Children of Israel are more numerous and greater than us”; they were the Erev Rav that left with the Children of Israel, and they were more than double the Jewish people . . . (Sha’arei HaPesukim, Shemos 1:8)



About the author