Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Righteous Men

I've never been very interested in Judaism, it being a belief system which encompasses most of what I dislike about religion: lots of rituals, funny clothing, long beards and so on.

The only thing I knew about the Jewish form of mysticism known as Kabbalah was regarding the 'popstar' Madonna. Which didn't really attract it to me.

Anyway, that said, I've just been reading a novel which contains an interesting idea. It describes mystical people known as Tzadikim Nistarim, Righteous men. The idea is that in every generation there are just 36 truly righteous people (36 being a very special number) who hold the world up. If they were all to die at once, the world would immediately end.

So far, so mumbo-jumbo.

For me, the interesting thing is the characteristics of these people. Whilst this is an ancient Jewish idea, some Jews believe that the 36 are hidden throughout the world - ie not necessarily amongst Jews. Second, the righteousness of these men is hidden. Third, their good deeds empower rather than degrade the receiver. So here, deep within this very well structured religion is the idea that what is most important is not the rituals, what you look like, what you say etc. The important thing is what you do to other people.

And there are a whole bunch of stories about these secret Righteous men, being found in surprising places. For example, the pimp from a brothel who when a desperate woman comes to him to sell herself to pay for an injustice, instead goes and sells his own possessions and gives her the money. The man who sets up a refugee camp, spending his own money, totally outwith of any outside help or notice.

People from all walks of life, who as a kind of hobby see a need and seek to do something about it. Without fanfare, without prizes, mostly without being noticed at all.

How about that for an idea?

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