Thursday, February 5, 2009

Beshalach: Erev Rav

[Later note: I fell into the misconception--wherever it came from--that the concept of Erev Rav first appears in Beshalach. The posuk actually appears in Bo. The rest of my points still stand.]

I was all set to write a column about Jews who I thought comprised today’s ‘erev rav.

It was originally inspired by EPSN’s Max Kellerman who has said: “There are no self-hating Jews; there are only Jewish antisemites.”

I was going to list the usual suspects, starting with CAMERA’s comprehensive list of anti-Israeli Jews, then on to Sander Gilman’s Jewish Self-Hatred, and Barry Rubin’s Assimilation and Its Discontents (although be careful of Rubin’s treatment of the story of Yosef; the relevant Rashi was unread or ignored.)

I was further inspired to pursue this inyan when I read that Naomi Klein, dean/queen of antiglobalism, who, having once done some soul-searching (as far as a hard leftist can) about resisting her inclinations to be anti-Zionist, finally fully crossed over when she announced that it was time to boycott Israel—the same way South Africa was boycotted--because of Israel’s “excesses” in Gaza. This from a leading light of the cultural Left with a lot of cachet.

I was all set to present a thesis on how to categorize the various madregas of Jewish self-hatred, or erevravness, apply to different prominent self-hating Jews/Jewish antisemites.

Then I started to actually research the issue further on the Web, and suddenly realized two things:

One, that no matter how well I present my argument, I might be engaging in a machlokes agavra (i.e. ad hominem) as opposed to acheftza (the actual issue), if not being outright tautological; and

Two, I started to get “intern” syndrome, wondering whether I myself belonged in the erev rav category, owing to my political-social-religional proclivities. (Not necessarily in that order.)

A sampling from the blogosphere convinced me to think twice about wielding the term like a bludgeon.

Enter at your own risk.
After a full and productively evil life of about 120 years, the mask has been removed from the Erev-Rav….[] the clothes have been removed to reveal the ugly nakedness of secular Zionism.
“The deep like a garment is its clothing: the waters stood above the mountains”: A cunning person commits his actions by keeping quiet or in darkness. We cannot see it because it's concealed well. This is the Erev Rav (Israel Government).
That the Erev Rav is always with us is all over our seforim. But worse yet, the Arizal (shaar hapesukim, v'eschanan) writes that "nowadays the majority of the geenration is from the erev rav…” and the Divrei Chaim (Moadim, Hashmatos to Vayakhel) writes that "nowadays, the majority of rabbonim and chasidim and baalei batim in this generation are form the erev rav".And if the Arizal wrote that in his generation, and the Divrei Chaim in his, it cause s one to tremble when one thinks how it applies in ours. Especially since even among the erev rav there are different levels. The Zohar in Bereishis writes that there are 5 levels of erev rav, the lowest of which is Amalek!
It is these kinds of souls that are incarnated among the Jews which have been a cause of so much anti Semitism. As people don’t know that these people may be born from Jewish mothers but their souls are not that of incarnations of Jews, but “erev rav”. Its revealed only 1 person out of 5 was a Jew who left Egypt, the rest were “erev rav”. So many of the “Jews” in exile among the nations are certainly “erev rav”. It was said by a wise man that close to 1/3 of the Jews living in Israel today are “erev rav” (mixed multitude). Amalek and these other entities mentioned here are not only incarnated in the MIXED MULTITUDE but among the nations also, so beware.
When possible, please provide a picture with a few sentences explaining why you think this person is a member of The Erev Rav.

(And who said Google was anti-Zionist?)

Prior to my internet research, I consulted a sefer called Eleh Maasei which asserted, based on various Zohars, Or HaChaims, and some bon mots from Rav Yoel d’Satmar (I think the author, Rav Dan Schwartz, is a Satmar kollelnik), that the erev rav:

--Were not chased into the Yam Suf by Pharaoh, did not cross it, and therefore did not experience (at least not as direct benificiaries of) Krias Yam Suf.

--Necessitated a Ma-amad Har Sinai taking place outside Eretz Yisrael and a 40-year galus; without an erev rav, Bnei Yisrael would have gone straight to Eretz Yisrael and received the Torah there.

--Were outside the machaneh from the get go: they were not under the ananei hakavod, they only ate the leftover manna given to them by the Jews, they were not actually at Ma-amad Har Sinai and consequently did not receive the Torah (although the men did get milah, so apparently a mass conversion did take place).

--Can be held responsible for all the major averos committed by the dor hamidbar (when Datan/Aviram and Korach weren’t responsible): in short, everything that Moshe alludes to at the beginning of Sefer Devarim, including (especially) the egel and the meraglim.

So, if the erev ran were so dangerous, why bring them along in the first place? This could be a mistake with national repercussions on the order of Yaakov not divorcing Leah.

Interestingly enough, it was the afformentioned Godssecret website that explained why the erev rav were not only tolerated, but even welcomed:

“Bringing this mixed multitude out of Egypt was the only thing Moses decided to do on his own accord. God did not instruct Moses to take the mixed multitude out of Egypt. Nor did He disapprove of it. Moses reasoned that the souls of Isreal [sic] that would fall among the nations while in exile would be more difficult to find and redeem. This would cause the exile to last longer. Moses made a deal with God that these souls instead of beings scattered to the 4 corners of the earth would be incarnated among the “erev rav” (mixed multitude) which would always be close to the Jewish people. So it is easier to bring these souls back.”

Similarly, the Eleh Maasei explains the apparent necessary evil—or evil necessity—of including the ‘erev rav in geulas miztrayim, which he gets “mitoch hasefarim”: loosely speaking, there was a pegam left from Adam and the chet etz hadaas that was still in need of tikkun, and the “Jewish” portion of his primal (indeed, the Primal) soul got mixed up with the “non-Jewish” portion. Something like that.

(I once heard from a reasonable Chabadnik that those enslaved in shibud mitzrayim were gilgulim of those who had worked on the Migdal Bavel. So this might add up, one way or the other. Tzorech Iyun.)

So the erev rav play a role, however problematic (Satanic, even?). Small comfort. Even, or especially, if it turns out I’m one of them. (I have seen the enemy and he is…or the enemy has seen me and I am….)

So I reverted back original pshat to come to some sort of resolution: what are/were the erev rav in the parsha?

One: it is clear that at the outset, the erev rav who joined up, whatever their motivation, were NOT originally supposed to be included in bris and/or zechus Avos at the time of yetzias mitrayim, as they were not genealogical (nor, it seems, spiritual) descendents of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.

Two: nowadays, like Amalek, we can never know who they are. Which is why it is (at least) hashkafically dangerous to label anyone who is irrefutably Jewish as erev rav; it might be (however loosely) akin to saying that a person is mizera Amalek.

Especially when it is said that the real apocalyptic battle is not with Esav or Yishmael, but the Erev Rav.

Eventually, I will be pursue my original thesis about self-hating Jews/Jewish antisemites, in due time---on my Cognitive Dissidents blog. Conspicuously absent will be any reference to anyone as erev rav.

That said, as most of the references above wield the accusation of erev rav against people who are either insufficiently religious or Zionist, what happens when the “sufficiently religious” actively and openly collude with sworn mortal enemies of their ostensible brethren/sistren? I leave you with this.
Like many other humanists, Jewish and non-Jewish, Neturei Karta members have exhibited concern about the distressing predicament of the Palestinians. One of their members, Rabbi Moshe Hirsch served as a member in Arafat's government, incidentally not the only Jew to hold a prominent position in the Palestinian Authority. Neturei Karta members prayed at Arafat's bedside, toured the Hezbollah territory in Lebanon and met with the current Iranian president. Satmar rabbis visited Iran attempting to free Jewish prisoners there. Neturei Karta regularly demonstrate alongside Palestinians against the very existence of the Zionist state. These activities invite positive coverage of these Jews, complete with beards and side curls, in Arab and Muslim media certainly.

Any of these people in Havana or Caracas yet?

Forget erev rav.

I’d like to know where the precedents for this kind of behavior can be found in any Biblical or Halachic literature.

1 comment:

A Cognitive Dissident said...

The commments preceded by ">" are my uncle's.

My responses follow.

> They [erev rav] were true "Jews by choice,"
> the best kind (cf.
> Hilary Putnam), and prepared to risk all.

As Bugs Bunny might put it: Ow Contrairy.

The erev rav were Pharaoh's poitical trash; acorrding to some relatively reputable (and some less reputable) sources, they were members of other non-Egyptian minorities, probably related to the "shevi bebeis ha-bor" and the "shifcha"'s who lost their bechorim in the makka, as they wished the Jews ill almost as badly as the Egyptians, until it became politically expedient to join em when they couldnt beat em.

For some reasons--which I mentioned--Moshe decided to forgive them their inital political opposition and welcome them. (This may have a current intereting historical parallel in Israel's 1970's allinace with South Africa, whose premier at the time, John Vorster, had been a stauch Nazi supporter in WWII.)

The erev rav's purpoted subsequent behavior--up to and including being on the sidelines during Krias Yam Suf and Matan Torah--indicate Moshe's political miscalcualtion. (And another historical parallel: when Bnei Yisrael went into the Yam Suf, cheilei pharaoh didnt turn and massacre the erstwhile "traitorous" erev rav on the shore; they went in after the "real" Jews. Almost like Hitler (ym'sh), who, while losing the war, dedicated critical military supplies to step up Jew murder.)

Now, v'khi tema: all of this is based on midrashic conjecture and therefore tenuos at best, racio-ethnoi-elitism at worst (if not both):
in, hachi nami. Except that without mdirashci conjecture we have no idea who the erev rav were at all. Its all couched in textual code, so all premises may be acceptable. But thats another discussion.

> The truth is that the "Orthodox" Jewish community
> has always contained,
> as do all Jewish or human communities, inter alia,
> pure-blooded trash,
> informers, traitors, murderers, rapists, child molesters,
> wife beaters,
> white slavers, capos, chiselers, and thieving stock
> brokers. They are
> not the "eirev rav," or the "other."
> They are us.

All true.

And not relevant to the discussion of who the erev rav WERE.

BUT, FULLY in concord with my VERY point that, just as we cant identify anyone clearly as an "Amalek" nowadays, no one can identify anyone as "erev rav" nowadays.

Kesubos [10a?/b?] does tell the story of the fellow who came to Rav Papa and said "pesah pasuah matzasi" and Rav Papa's immediate reaction was to take da guy out back and mess im up a little "How do you know?", so the concept does actually exist in Talmudic literature about throwing stone in glass houses, which in theory provides loose analogous support for not throwing any stones in the glass house that is Jewish existence.

That said, some distinctions should be made between various Jews on the Left based on their levels or either
a) somewhat unwitting moral misguidedness (e.g. Naomi Klein before she calls for a South Africa style boycott),
b) less-than-unwitting-moral misguidedness (e.g. Naomi Klein AFTER she called for the boycott),
c) those who try to couch their moral opposition to Israel etc in Jewish Religious terms (Michael Lerner on the Left, Neturei Karta on the right), d) those who couch their anti-Israelism/anitsemitism in gross moral inversions because they are house Jews (e.g. Richard Falk);
e) those who combine some sort of personal moral agenda in their "selbhasse" (e.g. Tony Kushner, for whom Israel/Judaism are two sieds of the same coin that he perceives as militiating against his Legitimate existence" as a homosexual;
f) those who happen to consider themselves the fount of all socio-politico-philosophical morality and whoise minions worship them enough that they begin to believe it if they havent before (Noam Chomsky is THE paradigm);

...and so on.

This list will get more extensive treatment on Cognitve Dissident.
Short of erev ravving them.