Monday, May 25, 2015

36 Righteous Men

There is a Jewish legend - I believe it is Hasidic rather that medieval or ancient - that the world is held in existence by 36 righteous men.  In some tellings, they have awareness of this, but usually, they are unaware, with the implication that it could be you. Everything depends on you.

I would not be quick to say there is nothing biblical about this. Were it so it would likely be a repeated theme, certainly. But absence is a risky proposition for interpretation. Abraham seems to think there is some reasonableness to sparing Sodom and Gomorrah if a few righteous persons can be found, and God seems to go along, at least for purpose of discussion.

Some days this just scares me to even think about. That it might be me is an obvious worry, but statistically, we might all breathe a partial sigh of relief over that. I worry that it is a principle that might be true in lesser things, even if not the greatest matters of existence. Many things may hang by a thread, and others unseen may depend on us nonetheless - or we on them.


Earl Wajenberg said...

I ran across them years ago in The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges. They're called the Lamed Wufniks or Lamed Vavniks. Lamed (two syllables) and Vav are two letters of the Hebrew alphabet that, taken numerically, mean 30 and 6. So, "the thirty-sixers." There is an Arabic equivalent, the Forty Amdahls.

james said...

Sometime, somehow, we're going to be the first responder to a tragedy. Maybe something dramatic on the roadside, but more likely somebody in crisis. In your field you've probably been there many times, but even a sedentary scientist winds up talking to a stranger in trouble once in a while: maybe not even knowing they are in trouble until later. I hope I've been adequate some of the time.