Saturday, January 24, 2009

36 Hidden Saints

Legends tell that in this world, there always live thirty-six humans who are also called Tzadikim Nistarim, or the Hidden Righteous Ones. They are usually poor, unknown, obscure, and no one guesses that they are the ones who bear all the sorrows and sins of the world. It is for their sake that God does not destroy the world even when sin overwhelms mankind.

It is also said that one of these 36 could potentially be the Jewish Messiah if the world is ready for him/her to reveal themselves. Otherwise, s/he lives and dies as an ordinary person. Whether or not s/he himself knows s/he is the potential Messiah is debated. Since the 36 are each exemplars of anavah, humility, having such a virtue would preclude against one's self-proclamation of being among the special righteous. The 36 are simply too humble to believe that they are one of the 36.

When one of the Lamed Vav dies, another is immediately chosen to take his/her place. Often, the Tzadik Nistar does not even know s/he is chosen for the task. As long as the Lamed Vav continue to serve humanity and God in this fashion, the world will go on. But if at some point God will not be able to find someone just and good enough to replace a dying Tzadik, the world will end immediately.

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