What does the Hebrew letter Yod mean?
A Jewish legend says that the fate of the world rests on 36 righteous people (Hebrew: Lamed-Vaw Zaddikim). However, they are unknown or hidden. This is based on the Hebrew term "tzaddikim Nistarim", which means something like "hidden righteous". The legend is anchored in the more mystical dimensions of Judaism. The successful novel by André Schwarz-Bart The Last of the Righteous (1959) contributed to the spread of the term.
Lamedwawniks When asked why there are 36 righteous people, the Babylonian Talmud in the Tractate Sanhedrin answers with the reference to a word of the prophet Isaiah: “That is why the Eternal waits that He be gracious to you, and He rises up for Him have your mercy. Because the Eternal is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for Him! ”(30:18). The words "on Him" in the last sentence of the verse are called "lo" in Hebrew and are formed from the letters Lamed and Waw. Hebrew letters are also numerical values. Lamed has the numerical value 30, Waw stands for the number 6.
The Yiddish language has therefore created its own word for the hidden righteous: in popular usage it is called "Lamedwawniks".
The number 36 is a doubling of 18. In Gematria, a form of Jewish number mysticism, the number 18 stands for the word "life". “Chaj” means “alive” in Hebrew and is made up of the letters Chet (8) and Jod (10). It therefore corresponds to the numerical value 18. The 36 therefore stands for "double life".
Talmudic tradition has opinions that there are 36 righteous people in the world in every generation. If one of them dies, another immediately takes his place. These holy persons are hidden. Nobody knows who they are. But because of them, God keeps the world, even if the rest of humanity were still so depraved - so the tradition.
Mysticism Hasidic mysticism assumes that it is the task of the 36 righteous in their lives to justify the meaning and purpose of the existence of humanity in the eyes of God. If one of the righteous suspects or realizes his true destiny, he must die and his role is immediately taken over by another righteous.
Our folk legends tell that the Lamedwawniks have mystical powers. Not only do they protect the world, but they can also ward off disasters, threats and persecution. But as soon as their task is completed, they return to anonymity and hide again in a Jewish community in which they are unknown as tzaddikim. But there are also several Hasidic stories in which the followers regard their Rebbe as one of the 36 righteous.
According to some opinions, the Lamedwawniks live scattered throughout the diaspora without knowing each other. And they themselves do not even know that they belong to the 36 righteous. But should anyone claim to be one of the 36 righteous, that would be proof that he is certainly not. Because the tzaddikim are the epitome of modesty.
Since no one knows who the Lamedwawniks are, every Jew should behave as if he (or she) were one of them. This encourages people to lead a pious and humble life for the good of others.
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