One who embodies the religious ideals of Judaism. The term is used repeatedly in the Old Testament and in the Talmud, which asserts that the continued existence of the world is due to the merits of 36 righteous men. In Hasidism it came to refer to a religious leader who was viewed as a mediator between humankind and God. Initially the zaddikim traveled widely and engaged in social activities to strengthen the community's spiritual life. Toward the end of the 18th century, they ceased this practice and became available at home for those seeking advice.
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