Column: Could You Be a Tzaddick?

By Rabbi Mitch

A Tzaddik is someone who not only always behaves in a moral way, but they always try to help anyone else who might be in trouble. There is no title greater to bestow on someone that Tzaddik, essentially saying they are a righteous person.

Jewish legend states that in every generation there are Lamed Vovniks; 36 truly righteous people who upon their merit the world is kept from utter destruction. (The numerical equivalent of the Hebrew letters Lamed and Vav = 36). The legend also teaches that these Lamed Vovniks are:
“Unknown to the world and cannot be known, to others or to themselves. They are humble servants of their fellows, tirelessly working to dry tears, show compassion, and shoulder the burdens of those who suffer.
Like the Israelites in the Sinai wilderness, they have felt of the Shekhinah, the Divine Presence. Tey have recognized the power of God in their lives – the pillars of cloud and of fire – which guides them and protects them. They help to save us all.”

Author Andre Schwarz-Bart described the mission of the Lamed Vovniks in his novel “The Last of the Just.”

Rivers of blood have flowed, columns of smoke have obscured the sky, but surviving all these dooms, the tradition has remained inviolate down to our own time. According to it, the world reposes upon thirty-six Just Men, the Lamed-Vov, indistinguishable from simple mortals; o en they are unaware of their station. But if just one of them were lacking, the sufferings of mankind would poison even the souls of the newborn, and humanity would suffocate with a single cry. For the Lamed-Vov are the hearts of the world multiplied, and into them, as into one receptacle, pour all our griefs.”

While, we may not know who the Lamed Vovniks are, it’s something we can all aspire to be. All of us can take the lead to be the Tzaddik who pursues at every opportunity stretching out our hands to those most in need.

This number 36 is a recurring theme throughout Judaism. For example, on Chanukah, if we count the total number of candles that we light during the eight nights, excluding the shames (servant) candle, we come to the number of 36 (1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8=36). The Shames candle doesn’t count as no blessing is said over the servant candle.

We are to be like the Shames; adding in growing amounts, each day and night; God’s light to the world. Without our constant pursuit of bringing the light of holiness within our midst, the world would give into the curse of darkness.

It’s no coincidence that Chanukkah comes at the physically darkest season of the year. Our light prompts God’s light to appear; sustains; perhaps even includes us; amongst the 36 Lamed Vovniks that sustain the world.

This Chanukkah may we be prompted to be like the Lamed Vovniks and pursue, at every opportunity, to bring God’s light within our world and to do good wherever we can.

Happy Chanukkah,

Rabbi Mitch