“And the mixt multitude that was among them felt a craving: and the children of Israel wept, and said, if only we had meat to eat.”
– Numbers 11:4
A perfect example of how a smaller component of a population, can influence, in this case, not for the good, the greater whole. The erev rab (mixed multitude) that accompanied B’nei Yisrael out of Egypt, instigated a general complaint. According to Chizkuni, this occurred within the first three days after they had travelled out from Mt. Sinai, as if already, the kedushah (holiness) that they had acquired there began to wear off.
Rashi asks, how can it be that they did not have any meat? He references the pasuk (verse), “And, also a mixed multitude went up with them, with flocks and herds” (Exodus 12:38). Since, in all likelihood, they still had “flocks and herds,” then, according to Rashi their complaint was only offered as a pretext. “A pretext to abandon the L-RD” (Sifrei Bamidbar 86).
From here, it can be deducted that the instigators attempted to compel B’nei Yisrael (the Children of Israel) to abandon the L-RD. This is evidenced by their lament, “if only we had meat… we remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic” (11:4-5, JPS). Did they eat better as slaves, and, in their hearts, prefer to return to Egypt?
How could gashmiyos (material concerns) be more important to them than the spiritual path they were upon? When G-d’s people are unduly influenced by those who do not recognize the same values instilled in us by His wisdom, then we must seek to renew our faith in Him. G-d granted the request of the people, sending quails to feed them for a month; however, He also struck them with a plague. Let us learn from this lesson, and guard ourselves against undue influences.