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When the Bnai Yisrael left Egypt, many converts left with them.

Shmot 12:38:

וְגַם עֵרֶב רַב עָלָה אִתָּם וְצֹאן וּבָקָר מִקְנֶה כָּבֵד מְאֹד:

And also, a great mixed multitude went up with them, and flocks and cattle, very much livestock.

Rashi:

ערב רב: תערובות אומות של גרים

a great mixed multitude: A mixture of nations of proselytes.

Now parshat Bamidbar spells out in great detail exactly how the 12 tribes camped:

Starting from Bamidbar 2:2 (and onwards)

אִישׁ עַל דִּגְלוֹ בְאֹתֹת לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם יַחֲנוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מִנֶּגֶד סָבִיב לְאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד יַחֲנוּ:

The children of Israel shall encamp each man by his division with the flag staffs of their fathers' house; some distance from the Tent of Meeting they shall encamp.

So that made me wonder: where did the converts (erev rav) camp? Do any of the meforshim ask this question?

(Just thinking out loud:)

On one hand it seems hard to believe that they were 'shunned' outside all the camps since we see that the erev rav had somewhat of an influence on the Bnai Yisrael - e.g. Regarding the sin of the golden calf: See Rashi on Shmot 32:7 ..."They have acted corruptly and have corrupted [others]"

(Edit: It just hit me that the golden calf incident happened before the Bnai Yisrael were commanded how to camp.... so I'm not sure about the above paragraph.)

On the other hand, it seems hard to believe that the tribes would let converts camp in their camp - take the account of the mekallel - Rashi on Vayikra 24:10 -

The Baraitha states: He “went out” of Moses’ tribunal [with a] guilty [verdict. How so?] He had come to pitch his tent within the encampment of the tribe of Dan. So [this tribe] said to him, “What right do you have to be here?” Said he, “I am of the descendants of Dan,” [claiming lineage through his mother, who was from the tribe of Dan (see verse 11)]. They said to him, “[But Scripture states (Num. 2:2): ‘The children of Israel shall encamp] each man by his grouping according to the insignias of his father’s household,’” [thereby refuting his maternal claim]. He entered Moses’ tribunal [where his case was tried], and came out guilty. Then, he arose and blasphemed. — [Vayikra Rabbah 32:3]

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1 Answer 1

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good question

The Zohar (Ki Sisa 191b) and Yalkut (Parshas Beha'alosecho 729 according to the Zais Ra'non) write that only Klal Yisroel had the privilege of the protection of the ענני הכבוד, the Erev Rav however didn't share this luxury and they camped in the desert outside the ענני הכבוד. Klal Yisroel fed the Erev Rav with the left overs of the Mon and from water from within the camps of Klal Yisroel. The Ba'al Haturim (Bigining of Parshas Masey) writes that from Ramses Klal Yisroel traveled on their own and the Erev Rav were no longer inter mingled with them. The Ramban (Parshas Noso 5 5) understood that from when the Mishkan was set up, the Erev Rav were separated from Klal Yisroel. The Haflo'oh (Ponim Yofos) writes that he couldn't find a source that Klal Yisroel and the Erev Rav were separated. This Ramban can be understood in light of the words of the Vilna Goen (Shir Hashirim 1 4) that after the Egel, the ענני הכבוד disappeared, and only returned when the mishkan was set up. Since the ענני הכבוד returned, so did the separation between Klal Yisroel and the Erev Rav. The Rogetchover Goen (Noso 5 4) held that even though they were outside the clouds, they were carried by the clouds and under their influence somewhat.

[The Chidah (Rosh Dovid beginning of Parshas Emor) and Bney Yisoschor (Tisrey 10 15) quote a Rav Yehudah who addressed the famous question why we have a - זכר - a symbol to remember the miracle of the ענני הכבוד and not the nes of the באר or the מן. He explained that the מן and באר were shared with the Erev Rav, but the nes of the ענני הכבוד was unique to Klal Yisroel, hence the Torah wanted us to remember it]. [The Ramban asks why Chazal learn from a special Possuk that gerim must also sit in the succah on Succos, why should this mitzvah be different than any other one. The Achronim explain based on the above mentioned Chazal, that the gerim were excluded from the ענני הכבוד so we would have thought that they are excluded from succah too, as succah symbolizes the ענני הכבוד, therefore a special possuk is needed]. [The Meshech Chochmah (Parshas Beha'alosecho) writes that the point which intrigued Yisro so much with the מלחמת עמלק to the extent that it made him become a convert, was that Amalek could only threaten the people outside the ענני הכבוד - no stranger could enter the עננים (this is discussed in the Meforshim) - and when Amalek came to fight the Yiden they started killing the Erev Rav outside (see Pirkey DeRebbi Elozor ch 44) and nevertheless Klal Yisroel went to help the Erev Rav and fought Amalek, this show of care impressed Yisro tremendously].

We have touched on a tip of the ice berg, and one could write volumes about the exact position of the Erev Rav in the midbar, but let this suffice for now! see also http://www.behindthedaf.com/articles/erev-rav/ for more on the erev rav

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