Righteous dudes

No. I am not writing about Bill or Ted. I (sadly) just finished one of my favorite books this year...The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss is a must-read.

I'm not giving anything away when I say that one of the characters (Bird) thinks he is a lamed vovnik. According to one legend, the fate of the human race rests on the shoulders of the 36 truly righteous ones of each generation. Those who are of that select group are thus designated by the Hebrew letters for the number 36, lamed-vav, and colloquially called "lamed-vavniks". This group is also referred to as tzadikim nistarim, or "concealed righteous ones." Given that they are the most righteous souls on earth, they have many responsibilities, but they aren't supposed to know that they are among the chosen. So, Bird finds himself asking "is this what a lamed vovnik would do?" when he is trying to figure out if he is one of the 36 or not. The passages of Bird trying to determine conclusively that he was a lamed vovnik absolutely endearing.

There seem to be different ways to spell and pluralize Jewish words. (Well, maybe -- I'm not familiar with the Hebrew language or alphabet). Krauss uses "vovnik," most sites use "vavnik," and some dropped the "nik" altogether while others spelled it out in one word - lamedvavniks. For the tzadikim, I found tsaddik, tzadi, tzadik, tzaddik, tzadikkim, and zaddik.

This is just a good reminder to use the wildcard function of your search engine, and that Wikipedia can be a good starting point for exploring new concepts.

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