The Zohar, Chapter “BeShalach (And Pharaoh Sent)” Item 37: Because of the mixed multitude, they were not called “the children of Israel,” or “Israel,” or “My people,” but simply, “the people.” When they rose from Egypt and the mixed multitude had not bonded with them, He called them “the children of Israel.” When the mixed multitude bonded with them, He called them “the people.”
Speaking of what occurs in a person, the “mixed multitude” (Erev Rav) are the desires that seem to be walking a spiritual path and choose it, thinking that it is the way to advance. However, every time they decide to advance, they intend to use the Creator, the Upper Light, for themselves, for reception.
This is the most treacherous, impure force (Klipa, shell). They wish to use the Torah to satisfy various demands of egoism in their corporeal life. All the problems of the nation occur because of this Klipa regarded as the “mixed multitude.”
It is easy to discern them on the spiritual path if you recognize that it is an egoistic form that has no relation to spirituality. If I desire any pleasures of this world (food, sex, family, money, fame, power, or knowledge), such desires are regarded as the “nations of the world” in me. They want only this kind of fulfillment.
But when I start studying the Torah and want to receive earthly, egoistic fulfillment (the very same money, fame, power, and so forth) with its help, this is called the “mixed multitude.” I engage the Torah, the force of advancement and Light, in order to use it for my egoism.
All this must take place in every person on the spiritual path. After all, everybody consists of everybody else as it is written, “There is no righteous man on earth who has done good and did not sin first.” Everyone will have periods (if they haven’t occurred yet) when, amidst his spiritual advancement, there will arise a desire to make money, have power, and so on. The only question is how quickly and how correctly he will exit this state.
Similar divisions exists in the corporeal world as well. There are “nations of the world,” those who desire to receive all that there is in this world. Their desires are simple, without any yearning for spirituality, for the wisdom of Kabbalah.
There are also people who strive for spirituality and yearn to attain it to the best of their capacity. And there are those who engage in spirituality as well, but not to uncover their “evil inclination,” correct it, and thereby get closer to the Creator, meaning to use the Torah as it was intended. Rather, they study the Torah in order to get all possible wealth, fame, and power from it. Hence, it is written that all problems after the exodus from Egypt took place because they brought with them the “mixed multitude.”
So it is in our generation: There are those in the nation who study the Torah in order to gain from it the Light that Reforms and correct themselves, and there are those who engage in the Torah in order to obtain power and wealth for their earthly life.
From the 2nd part of the Daily Kabbalah Lesson 10/20/10, The Zohar