Definition of a Tzaddik

Question

In ancient Jewish history, many people had the label of ‘tzaddik,’ all while they committed the egregious acts of murder, kidnap, and forbidden sex acts to name a few. Today, there are numerous Jews who would never dare do any of these things and are generally upstanding, caring individuals and many are very learned in Torah as well. Yet hardly anyone in modern times is described as a tzaddik. What makes it so the legacy of all the ancient tzaddikim forgives these horrific acts while not stripping them of the tzaddik label, but most people today who fill their lives with mitzvot will never acquire the title of tzaddik?

3 months

Answers

  1. The term Tzaddik is earned through one of two ways. The first is by a person living a life of spirituality and not sinning. That would seem to be the simplest definition of a Tzaddik but it is also a somewhat unrealistic definition. We all sin and the idea of someone living in this imperfect, physical world without sinning is almost entirely improbable. In fact, King Solomon states quite clearly, Ecclesiastes 7, that no one is so righteous that they do not sin. And that means that there is a second, more realistic, definition of a Tzaddik and that is someone who has sinned and then repents wholeheartedly. His repentance is so all-encompassing that he is then described as being a Tzaddik.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team