The Erev Rav, then and now

Moses sat as a magistrate among the troubleome Erev Rav. Should we also be patient and understanding with the Polish government today?  

Professor Gerald Aranoff,

Judaism Prof. G. Aranoff
Prof. G. Aranoff

We read in this week’s parsha:

"Next day, Moses sat as magistrate among the people, while the people stood about Moses from morning until evening. But when Moses’ father-in-law saw how much he had to do for the people, he said, What is this thing that you are doing to the people? Why do you act alone, while all the people stand about you from morning until evening? Moses replied to his father-in-law, It is because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, it comes before me, and I decide between one person and another, and I make known the laws and teachings of God” (Exodus 18:13-16).

The Israelites had little reason for disputes to bring to Moses

Only the Israelites left Egypt with wealth, gold and silver. What Moses says at the end of the 40 years applies only to the Israelites: “He subjected you to the hardship of hunger and then gave you manna to eat, which neither you nor your fathers had ever known, in order to teach you that man does not live on bread alone, but that man may live on anything that the Lord decrees. The clothes upon you did not wear out, nor did your feet swell these forty years.” (Deuteronomy 8:3-4).

Midrash Opinion that the erev rav were demanding gold and silver

A view in the midrash is that Moses sat as a magistrate among the erev rav. The erev rav, mixed multitudes, were Egyptians who Moses accepted and allowed to leave along with the Egyptians. The erev rav never ate manna and were never under the clouds of glory. See /Articles/Article.aspx/16386#:

There are opinions in the Zohar that the mixed multitude numbered 20% or 2% of the Israelites:

Soncino Zohar, Shemoth, Section 2, Page 46a:

“it says in a later passage, “The Lord spoke to Moses, Hurry down, for your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt, have acted basely” (Exodus 32:7). “So God led the people roundabout, by way of the wilderness at the Sea of Reeds. Now the Israelites went up armed וחמשים out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 13:18). This signifies that the mixed multitude numbered one in every five (hamishah). According to R. Jose, for every five pure Israelites there was one who belonged to the mixed multitude. R. Judah said one in fifty (hamishim).”

Midrash Pesiktah Zutra (Lechach Tov) Exodus 18:13:

“Next day, the day following the feast . “Moses sat as magistrate among the people.”  What law suits had they? Only, the sons of the mixed multitude were suing for the Egyptian booty [held by the Israelites].”

The Malbim says here:

“Next day. The day [after] Jethro came he [Moses] turned away from the guests and returned to dealing with the needs of the public. “while the people stood about Moses”  The [usual] way of judges is that witnesses and parties [only] gather before the judges, here all the people stood [before Moses] since it was a matter of learning and teaching God’s laws.”

Like the Polish Government Today

Like the Polish Government today wants to claim it was Hitler and his soldiers and not them.  See here. 

In the rabbinic view the Israelites left with gold and silver while the erev rav left with nothing.  The midrash says that the erev rav made law suits against the Israelites in the wilderness.  Surely they claimed they had rights to the gold and silver held by the Israelites.   What wrong did they do? The Polish government says today, what wrong did Polish people do during World War II?  Really?

The erev rav could claim they did nothing wrong. It was only Pharaoh and his soldiers who made the Israelites slaves.  Moses was forced to deal with individual cases of erev rav that claimed the Israelites owed them money.

Individuals of erev rav could claim they loaned gold and silver to the Israelites and now want it back.  They could claim before Moses they want payment for good services they did to the Israelites.  Moses would hear their every complaint “from morning until evening.”

Moses dealt with the erev rav with patience and understanding. Yet, they made the golden calf and did other trouble for the Israelites.   Should we be patient and understanding with the Polish government today?  Moses felt that the full redemption would come if the erev rav would become good.

This is like Jacob 20 years trying to make Laban, his father-in-law, good.  This is like Isaac trying to make Esau good and Abraham trying to make Ishmael good. A good Polish government today could help bring the full redemption.  May it be God’s will that we see the full redemption speedily in our lifetime.