New Year Wishes

There is a legend from the Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, that in each generation the world is sustained by the actions of 36 just and righteous people. In Hebrew, the number 36 is represented by the letters lamed and vav, so the 36 righteous people are known as “lamed-vav-niks.” 

Lamed-vav-niks are humble servants of humanity who help to ease the burdens of others and do good works in the world. Legend has it that without these 36 people performing acts of love and kindness the world would fall into chaos. 

One of the things I love about the legend is that no one can know who they are—even other lamed-vav-niks. In some tellings, they are extremely modest and hide their identity with humble work, disability, or poverty. They could be of any race, religion, gender, or age, and may not even know that they themselves are a lamed-vav-nik. This means that any of us—even you—could be one of them. (But if a person claims to be one it proves they are not, because the 36 are either too humble to know what they are or too humble to reveal it.)

In 2018, may we each be worthy to be a lamed-vav-nik. And may we treat each person we meet as the lamed-vav-nik they may be—sustaining the world for all the rest.

Weekly EmailLeo Alfred