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What Is a Tzaddik?

What Is a Tzaddik?

Being human all the way


Often people call someone a tzaddik simply because he is an exceptionally good person. Then there are times they come across a spiritual superhero, someone more like an angel than a human being, and they say, “Now that’s a tzaddik!”

Yet the most special thing about a tzaddik is that he really is the most human of human beings.

Tzaddik צדיק is a form of the Hebrew verb צדק [TzDK], which carries the meaning of doing what is correct and just. Weights that are calibrated correctly are called moznei tzedek. The judge is urged, “Tzedek, tzedek you shall pursue!” Meaning: that which was wronged should be righted, that which was stolen should be returned to its owner, the innocent should not suffer, and those who have caused harm shall be corrected so that they will return to doing good. Tzedek is making everything the way it should be.

So too, the personality of the tzaddik is calibrated to the Manufacturer’s original specifications, so that everything about him is just as his Creator meant it should be, and all he desires is what his Creator desires. A tzaddik is one who embodies the Creator’s primal conception of the human being.

The tzaddik is a human being like all of us. Because, essentially, all of us are divine.

Which means that the tzaddik is a human being like all of us. The tzaddik feels pain and pleasure. He grins, he smiles, he cries and he laughs. He suffers bitterness of the spirit, and he dances with joy. At times his heart palpitates with love, and at others his veins burn with outrage. He is frustrated by failure, exhilarated by success; he revels in the celebrations of life, and mourns when those he loves depart from it. Because all these things are included in the character of the human being as G‑d made him, and so they too are divine.

Like all of us, the tzaddik must eat and sleep. He must take time for leisure, and he enjoys the company of others. But he does all these things in a higher way, a divine way. Because, to the tzaddik, there is nothing that “just is.” Everything is with purpose; in all things he sees meaning. To the tzaddik, everything that exists is a means of connecting to an infinite G‑d.

This, then, is a tzaddik: one in whom we see our true selves, who allows us to realize that each one of us is essentially divine. And so, just by being there, but especially by our bonding with him, he connects us to the G‑d who breathes within each one of us.

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victor saul schaeffer sardinia December 17, 2017

''all life is joy once all existence is perceived.''

madness will kill a fool but sharpen the wise.

a rich man is poor only in the eyes of the poor.


Mauricy Sydney July 29, 2016

Ariel Pupil-''where is the entrance to heaven?'' Teacher; you hear the murmur of the brook ? the entrance.

You have to learn to listen to the soft expressions of your soul while living life to the full - loud and passionately, connecting to others, ...can you connect expressions of heaven and earth? ....Maat? Reply

Ariel Lekaditis Bat Yam July 28, 2016

How can I connect with the soul of a tzaddik? Reply

Moshe Woodland Hills, CA. May 21, 2016

Evil tzaddikim Rabbi Nachmann speaks of tzaddikim who are demons and frauds. Aren't these two concepts mutually exclusive? Reply

Bea WNY July 15, 2015

Breath taking... wonderful! I am always amazed at people who can write so much with so few words. I saw this share in my soul. These words opened an expanse so full of Light that I couldn't even see what I was understanding. Thank you. Awesome connection to what we forget is. B"H Reply

maurice west mosman park May 7, 2015

Tzaddik...tzadeika...has to follow their become a righteous man or serve the spirit and will of divine nature. Their fate is determined by Divine will, not by gene or family privilege. Reply

Gary W. Harper Saylorsburg, PA April 12, 2015

Nature of a Tzaddik A Tzaddik speaks in what appears to be silence; only Hashem hears him; what he asks about, on the behalf of others, occurs, if they are deserving of it.

When a Tzaddik speaks, Hashem has to listen, as the Tzaddik was made for that specific purpose. A Tzaddik can negotiate with Hashem on behalf of all others.

Tzaddikim are born thus, but can also be made, through careful study, application, and service to Hashem.

A Tzaddik is a sign to an entire generation; if they are deaf and blind, they do not see and hear him. If their eyes and ears are open, they hear and see him. But he is always right before Hashem, is both seen and heard by Hashem.

A Tzaddik cares for nothing but service to Hashem; he does so by helping all of those he meets, who truly need help; he asks for nothing for himself; he helps them in ways that they do not know about, that they cannot even trace back to him, unless they are discerning individuals.

This is how you will recognize and know the Tzaddikim. Reply

Anonymous Canada September 3, 2014

What Jew is not a Tzaddik? This sounds like Us. We just might not be aware of who we are quite yet. Let's work to reveal what is hidden in each of us. Reply

Melzora Towne June 12, 2014

Which is better a Baal Tesuvah or a Tzaddik. From article (Pesach Sheni, 14th Day of Iyar, 5740 (1980))
(" Pesach Sheni teaches that “nothing is ever lost, one can always correct oneself.” This applies even now. Even if one was “on a far off way” (albeit willingly) or impure, one can correct oneself through Teshuvah.1 This service of Teshuvah will lift one to a high level, as our sages commented: “In the place where a Baal Teshuvah stands, a perfect Tzaddik cannot stand.” Through Teshuvah, we will compensate for all that is lacking in our service. The Hebrew word for compensate“Mashlim” is also related to the word “Shleimus,”meaning a complete state. Through Teshuvah we can reach a state of completion and also reach a state of ultimate completion, which will be reached with the coming of Moshiach, speedily in our days" )
Also why is a Tzaddik hidden? Wouldn't it be better to be seen and able to teach others to love G-d with such intensity? Are Baal Tesuvah and Tzaddik in opposition of each other? Reply

Tzvi Freeman November 14, 2013

Re: Female Tzadikim Because the English language is a pain when it comes to gender. Reply

zeynep November 12, 2013

Jonathan Shine Thank you Jonathan, truly a Shining comment. Reply

Jonathan Shine London November 11, 2013

Female Tzadikim Why only refer to Tzaddik in the masculine form? Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma November 11, 2013

Yochanan I just want to say what you just wrote is beautiful. Sheer poetry. Reply

Yochanan Hardisty Paso Robles, California via November 8, 2013

What is a Tzaddik? We see it in a new born baby's eyes. We see it in Martin Buber's concept of the " I-Thou " relationship. We see the Tzaddik spark in all who love Torah and Ha Am. We see that Tzaddik spark in all Human Beings who love. Reply

Anonymous November 8, 2013

tzaddik is a person who tells the truth. I hope am not caught between languages. Reply

zeynep November 8, 2013

and she?? A she cannot be a tzaddik, Rabbi Freeman? Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ms November 8, 2013

you are saying they are hiding. That is, tzadikkim. A true tzadik might not be thinking WOW I am one of those 36, unless of course G-d told them. There are of course analogous stories around the world, of Atlas shouldering the Globe (Greek) and stories everywhere about turtle magic, how slow and steady does it, how Turtle carries the world around as in its home being that shell. And then we have rhe magic of poetry and Solomon and the Song of The Turtle Dove. Dov Ber, beautiful people and names that do echo, echod: Love Story. Peace on Earth. PAX declines to Pace and the pace of time the river and man will bring us to close this circle. Being entirely about mitzvot, caring, support, sharing, respect. Reply

Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell Riverside, CA November 7, 2013

Can some non Jews also be Tzaddik? Just curious. Reply

Tzvi Freeman November 6, 2013

Re: Connecting to a Tzadik Of course there are tzadikim today. There is a strong tradition that there must always be at least 36 hidden tzadikim doing their thing in the world at any one time. If not, the world could not continue to exist.

At one time, those 36 had to go through all sorts of maneuvers to keep themselves hidden. Today, when nobody is looking, they don't have to work so hard to hide. So if you are sincerely seeking a real tzadik (and not just another ego-hungry charlatan), certainly you will find one. Just know that he or she is not walking around with a flashing neon sign. Reply

Jack Bloom Johannesburg December 31, 2017
in response to Tzvi Freeman:

Name of a Tzaddik Please name one genuine Tzaddik today who is actually fairly accessible. I have looked extensively and this person is simply not there. What's the point of being told to attach yourself to a living Tzaddik and practically speaking there isn't one. Reply

Tzvi Freeman November 6, 2013

Re: Applies to all human beings? Every human being is created "in the divine image"—meaning that the human soul represents the Creator in this world, and so the value of a human life cannot be measured.

That's the central point of the story of the creation of Adam in Genesis. It's also restated in the Mishnah: "Fortunate is man, that he is created in the Image."

Now for my two cents: The Jewish People were given a special mission at Sinai, to reveal the G‑dliness within all of humankind. In that way, perhaps you can say that what a tzadik is to the rest of us, that is what the Jewish People are meant to be for all of humanity. But that's just my way of thinking of it. Reply

The landscape of classic Jewish thought is painted with a finite set of themes and motifs...
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