The Righteous

Contributed by Rabbi Geoffrey W. Dennis

While Judaism has no notion of "Saint" in the sense that it is used in Roman Catholicism, Judaism definitely recognizes "saints" (with a small "s"). These are exceptionally pure and righteous individuals. In keeping with Judaism's esteem for sacred text and sacred study, most are understood to be masters of the Torah and the tradition, but non-scholarly individuals being recognized as tzadikim are not that unusual. Again, unlike Catholicism, Jewish saints are not always associated with miracle working, but it is also not unusual to have reports of the righteous performing wonders and miraculous healings. The most extraordinary of these pious individuals will be declared kedoshim, "holy ones," but such people are never called "holy" in their own lifetime.

Once a tzadik has died however, the mere name of the righteous one possesses power. The Talmudic Sage Rabbi Eleazar, for example, is invoked for healing and protection on medieval demon bowls. More recently, it is not unusual to find an amulet with the name of the Lamed Vav.

Article copyright © 2004 Geoffrey Dennis.