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The Tzadikim Nistarim or Lamed Wufniks are a group of thirty-six holy men in Jewish folklore.


In Yiddish, the Tzadikim Nistarim are called the lamedvuvniks, which literally translates to "thirty-sixers". The word contains the Hebrew letters lamed and vuv, whose numerical value when combined is thirty-six. The term Nistarim means "concealed ones".


There are thirty-six Tzadikim Nistarim in the world. They are scattered across the earth, and they do not know each other. A Nistarim is always a poor man, but they are regardless just and good. Although they do not understand their own importance, they are the protectors of the world. Their purpose is to prove the goodness in human society; if it were not for them, God would destroy all of humanity. The Nistarim do not know what they are. If a man discovers that he is one of the thirty-six, he immediately dies and another replaces him.


This story originates from the Book of Genesis, in which God states that he would spare Sodom and Gomorrah if ten good men could be found in them. Another view traces the tradition to a phrase in the Talmud which states that thirty-six righteous people greet the Shechinah, or divine presence.


  • The mystery thriller novel The Righteous Men by Sam Bourne deals with the murder of the righteous ones, one by one, and solving the murders.
  • In "Three Septembers and a January," from Neil Gaiman's comic The Sandman, Death remarks: "They say that the world rests on the backs of 36 living saints – 36 unselfish men and women. Because of them the world continues to exist. They are the secret kings and queens of this world."
  • This belief is recorded in The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges.


  • Borges, Jorge Luis. The Book of Imaginary Beings.

Wikipedia article on Tzadikim Nistarim.