Pascal's Pensées: Week 28, Recognized by God and the Angels


Saints have their power, their splendor, their victory, their luster, and do not need either carnal or intellectual greatness, which has no relevance for them, for it neither adds nor takes away anything. They are recognized by God and the angels...God is enough for them.


There's a legend in Judaism concerning the Tzadikim Nistarim, "the hidden righteous ones," also called the Lamed Vav Tzadikim, "the 36 righteous ones."

Taking a cue from Genesis 18, where Abraham asks the Lord how many righteous people living in Sodom would justify its continued existence, the legend of Tzadikim Nistarim says that there exists on the earth, at any moment, 36 people whose exemplary holiness justifies the continued existence of the world in the eyes of the Lord. That is to say, the world if full of corruption and evil. So much so that the Lord is tempted to bring the whole show to an end. Like with Sodom. And yet, for the sake of the Tzadikim Nistarim, the world is spared. 

The other part of the legend is that the Tzadikim Nistarim do not know who they are. They are too humble to imagine such a thing about themselves. More, they are hidden and anonymous. The Tzadikim Nistarim, the holiest people on the earth, are not powerful or famous people. The people whose goodness spares us all are ordinary people. Janitors, bus drivers, school teachers, and checkout clerks. 

I adore this legend. It fires my imagination. Spiritual greatness is hidden. You wouldn't recognize it if it were standing right in front of you. Your server at a restaurant. Your Uber driver. The person cleaning your hotel room. That person is one of the 36, unseen by human standards of glory and fame, but recognized by God and the angels. 

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