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Diversity Makes Us Stronger

The Israelites journeyed from Ramses to Sukkot, about six hundred thousand men on foot, aside from children. Moreover, a mixed multitude went up with them, and a large number of livestock, both flocks and herds. (Exodus 12:37-38)

As the exodus from Egypt is described, we are told that a "mixed multitude" (in Hebrew, "erev rav") accompanied the Israelites. Jewish commentators differ on the precise identity of this multitude, although many agree that this refers to righteous Egyptians who chose to join ranks with the Israelites. Others view them more perjoratively, as corrupt or sinful elements in the Israelite community.

As contemporary American Jewish students of Torah, we might understand the meaning of "erev rav" somewhat differently. If the Exodus marks the birth of the Jewish people, it is significant indeed that the text goes out of its way to mention that we have been a diverse people from the very beginning. Today, we understand that diversity and difference is and has always been a reality in the Jewish world. Moreover, we now rightly view our diversity as a very real source of strength: something to be cherished and celebrated rather than feared or denied.
Topics: Divrei Torah
Type: Dvar Torah