36+ Unknown Saints                              by Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Count Valentine Potocki, a young Polish nobleman went to Paris to finish his education, There he became close friends with another Polish nobleman, Zarembo, Both of them met a Jewish teacher and asked him to teach them Hebrew. After some time each independently decided to become Jewish. Potocki went to Amsterdam where it was safe to convert to Judaism. Zarembo returned to Poland where he married into the Tishkewitch family. After some years, Zarembo took his wife and 5 year old son to Amsterdam where it was safe to become Jewish. Then the family went to Israel as Zarembo's friend Count Potocki had done previously.

The Zarembo family remained in the Land of Israel, but Count Potocki grew homesick and took the dangerous step of returning to Poland. He settled in Ilja/Ilia in the Vilna district of Belarus posing as a born Jew, and spent all his time studying Torah. When the police found out he was a convert to Judaism he was arrested and sent to Vilna. There the bishop tried to save his soul with reason, followed by torture, and then by being burned alive in the center of Vilna in 1749.

The next month, when the Baal Sham Tov heard what had happened to Potocki, he said two things. First, Potocki's soul was a Gilgul (reincarnation) of parts (sparks) of the soul of both Sarah and Ruth, who also were not born of a Jewish mother. Ruth was the most famous female convert to Judaism. According to a Midrash the souls of all future converts to Judaism were also standing at Sinai. According to Sefer HaPliyah a 14th century Kabbalistic text, most converts to Judaism are gilgulim- reincarnated Jewish souls from previous generations that were lost to the Jewish people, who are now returning home to their original people. Since Potocki left no children, his soul would be reborn in a Gentile body and then someday would return (convert) to the Jewish people again. Jewish mystical teachings relate that the souls of Jews who were cut off from the Jewish people, without leaving physical descendants to propagate their Jewish lineage, will reincarnate in later generations in the bodies of close friends or extended family, who 3-7 generations later will revert to Judaism.

Second, according to the Baal Shem Tov, Potocki was one of the 36+ hidden saints. These 36+ hidden saints- Lamed Vav Tzadikim (ל"ו צדיקים or "Lamed-Vav(niks") refers to a special group of at least 36 unknown righteous people whose devotion to Judaism keeps the civilized world from being destroyed by all the evil in it. In the 19th and 20th centuries Hassidic Judaism and Yiddish proletarian writers expanded this Jewish tradition of 36+ righteous people whose simple role in life justifies the value of mankind in God's eyes; by adding that if even one of them was missing, the world would come to an end. Their identity is unknown, even to each other. The lamed-vavniks are scattered throughout the world. On rare occasions, one of them is 'discovered' by accident, in which case the secret of their identity must not be disclosed. The lamed-vavniks do not themselves know that they are one of the 36+. In fact, if a person claimed to be one of the 36, (as bar Yohai did-see below) that is proof that he or she is certainly not one, since the 36+ are each great exemplars of anavah, ("humility"). The 36+ are simply too humble to believe that they are one of the 36+. This is similar to the reaction of almost all Gentiles who rescued Jews during the Shoah; who deny being heroes and think what they did was only natural.

For the sake of these 36+ hidden saints, God preserves our world even if the rest of humanity degenerates to the level of total barbarism. This idea is based on the story of Sodom and Gomorra in the Bible, where God told Abraham that he would spare the town of Sodom if there were at least 10 righteous people in it. Since nobody knows who the 36+ Lamedvavniks are, not even themselves, every Jew should honor and respect all the simple, honest, unselfish, hard working and long suffering people around us, for one of them may be one of the 36+. Unlike the rich, the famous, the pious, the scholars, the powerful, the beautiful or the successful, who everyone thinks are very important, the 36+ are the really important people, because without even a few of them the world could destroy itself.

It is important to note that Rabbi Abaye said that there must be at least 36 righteous people in each generation. Usually there are more, lots more. The full Talmud text is as follows: Abaye said; The world must contain not less than thirty-six righteous people in each generation who receive Shechinah face, as it is written, “Blessed are all they that wait for him.” (Isaiah 30:18); the numerical value of him -'lo' is thirty-six.

Is there a maximum number of hidden saints? The Talmud discussion continues. Did not Hezekiah say in the name of Rabbi Jeremiah, that Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai said: I have seen the sons of heaven, and they are limited; if there are a thousand, I and my son are included; if a hundred, I and my son are included; and if only two, they are myself and my son? (Thus proving that Simeon bar Yohai and son are not among the 36+ ) There is no difficulty (says the editor of the Talmud): the former number (1,000)] refers to those who enter (experience Shechinah) with permission i.e. by self sacrificial Mitsvot; the latter (100) to those who enter without permission. i.e. by Mitsvot and great force of prayer . Plus Raba silenced Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai with proof from the Prophets: The front row (of righteous people) before the Holy One, consists of eighteen thousand, for it is written (Ezekiel 48:35), “it shall be eighteen thousand round about” Sanhedrin 97b.

So there are between 36+ and 18,000 unknown Jewish and Gentile saints in the world in every generation. When the number is high as in the generation of the 1860's, millions of American slaves and Russian serfs were freed. When the number dips below 100 the world is in big trouble. When it sinks close to 36; holocausts occur.

In Hebrew grammar a mixed group of men and women, even a group of 99 women and one man, are referred to as men. Many  thoughtless people refer to the 36+ righteous as men, although there is absolutely no evidence that there are no female humble saints. Indeed, women are more likely to fit the 36+ mold then men are. Clearly the 36+ are both men and women. Reform Rabbis like Rabbi Allen Maller, teach that the 36+ are composed of at least18 men or 18 women who keep the world (Hai) alive. Or perhaps there are 3 sets of 12+. The first third are from the tribe of Levy; half of them are descendants from Aaron, the first high priest, and half are descendants from Miriam, the first female prophet. The second third are from Judah with at least half of them descendants of Ruth, and at least half descendants from David. The last third are descendants from Noah, half of them are righteous Gentiles (many of them among the almost 24,000 rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust recorded by Yad V'Shem in Jerusalem) and the other half are converts to Judaism (among the tens of thousands of converts in North America). When the numbers of righteous saints are much higher than 36+ the number of righteous Gentiles and converts to Judaism becomes very high.

These unknown saints have great influence with God, although they do not know it. A folktale from Syria illustrates this theme. Once, in the land of Syria, there was a great drought. A rabbi called all the Jews of his village to the synagogue. They prayed day and night, but still no rain fell. Then the rabbi declared a fast, and asked God to answer their prayers.

That night he heard a voice from heaven, saying, "God will send rain only if Rahamim, who always sits in the back corner of the synagogue, prays for it." "But he's an ignoramus," protested the rabbi. Silence was the response.

When Rahamim came to the synagogue the rabbi said, "tomorrow you will lead the congregation in prayers for rain," "But I do not know how to pray," said Rahamim. "There are so many others who know more than I." "Nevertheless," said the rabbi, "it is you who must pray."

The next day the rabbi called all the people together to pray. The synagogue was filled to bursting. All eyes were on the bimah, where everyone expected to see the rabbi leading them in prayer. How great was their amazement to see poor Rahamim standing up there before the Holy Ark holding a clay jar with two spouts in his hands. "Now I ask that you pray with all your heart," he told the congregation.

So they opened the Ark and the people poured out their hearts to heaven, wailing bitterly and beating their breasts. Then Rahamim lifted up his jar, first placing the one spout to his eye and then the other to his ear. Instantly there was a rumble of thunder and then the sky opened up, drenching the earth with rain. The rabbi later asked Rahamim, "Why did you bring that jar here? What did you do with it?"

"Rabbi, I'm only a poor man," Rahamim replied. "What I earn as a cobbler barely feeds my many children. Every day they cry for bread and I have little to give them. When I hear their cries my heart breaks, and I too cry. I collect my tears in this jar. When you asked me to come here to pray, I looked into the jar and said, 'Master of the Universe, if you do not send rain, I will break this jar in front of all these people.' Then I heard a voice that said, 'Do not break the jar'.

And then it began to rain.


                                        JEWISH GENES AND GILGUL REINCARNATIONS

In April 2010, Joseph Pickrell sent a tube of his saliva to the California genetic testing company 23andMe. After spending years studying other people’s DNA, the 27-year-old doctoral student at the University of Chicago decided he wanted to learn more about his own genetic ancestry. When the results came back, they showed that Pickrell was largely of Northern European descent with a bit of Mediterranean blood in the mix. At the time, “I just thought, that’s about right,” Pickrell said.

Together with 11 friends and colleagues who had completed the same test, Pickrell then ran his genetic profile through a computer algorithm designed to tease apart genetic lineages more precisely. Strangely, the analysis suggested that two people in the group were of Ashkenazi descent: New York-based attorney Dan Vorhaus and Pickrell. This finding made sense for Vorhaus, a Jew who grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. But for Pickrell, who was raised Catholic in Chicago’s northern suburbs, it came as a shock.

Pickrell turned to his mother. “She said, ‘Wait a second, hold on; this rings a bell,’” Pickrell recalled. She made a few phone calls, and pieced together information: Her father’s father — Pickrell’s maternal great-grandfather — had been raised Jewish in Poland before moving to the United States, where he married a Catholic woman and left his Jewish life behind.

DNA tests to uncover Jewish origins have been offered for decades by companies such as Houston-based Family Tree DNA and DNA Tribes of Arlington, Va. They have shown, for example, that many Hispanic Americans likely descended from Jews who were forced to convert or hide their religion more than 500 years ago in Spain and Portugal. Yet although standard ancestry-testing platforms can point to centuries-old Jewish origins, none would have flagged Pickrell’s relatively recent Semitic pedigree.

That’s because most DNA tests have traditionally relied on only two small parts of the genome: the Y-chromosome, which is passed down almost unchanged from father to son, and mitochondria, which mothers pass faithfully to their offspring. Because these stretches of DNA remain relatively consistent from one generation to the next, they are particularly useful for testing direct-line paternal and maternal ancestry, respectively; however, they essentially ignore the bulk of someone’s DNA ancestry and cannot detect genetic signatures that cross gender lines. But the test that 23andMe offers is different. Available commercially for only a few years, it measures close to a million single “letters” of DNA smattered across the whole genome to reveal ancestral origins of, and risk factors for, almost 100 diseases.

According to 23andMe geneticist Mike Macpherson, about 800 (2%) of the 40,000 people of non-Ashkenazi European descent who have used the company’s platform show some reliable signature of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage in their DNA.

According to Bennett Greenspan, president of Family Tree DNA, many people who learn of Semitic ancestry through DNA often end up converting to Judaism. Elliot Dorff, a conservative rabbi at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, welcomes these conversions. “We would really want to encourage such people to rediscover their Jewish roots,” he said. Although people who find Jewish origins through DNA are not strictly Jewish, halachically speaking, Rabbi Dorff noted that many people in this situation already feel a deep-seated connection to the religion.

Regrettably not everyone has living relatives to corroborate the findings of DNA testing. Rick Voss, a 66-year-old Atlanta based lawyer, always suspected that his paternal grandparents might be Jewish, and last year the results of 23andMe’s kit indicated that Voss himself was half-Jewish. But since both Voss’s father and grandparents died decades ago, he can’t ask them for more details. Nonetheless, Voss noted, discovering through his DNA that he probably has Jewish roots “has some psychic meaning.”  from The Forward 1/18/11

Reform Rabbi Allen S. Maller says that one psychic meaning when non-Jews discover that they have Jewish ancestry is that some of them eventually realize they have a Jewish soul. According to a Kabbalah teaching a non-Jew who is drawn to Jewish culture and Jewish people usually has a reincarnated soul from an ancestor who was cut off from the Jewish people several generations in the past. This reincarnated soul (gilgul) recycles into a later generation and is sooner or later drawn to return to Judaism and the Jewish People. Other people who descend from the same Jewish individual and who find no “psychic meaning” in this knowledge, do not have a ‘Jewish soul’ according to Rabbi Maller, who offers many examples on his web site and in his book “God, Sex and Kabbalah

                      AFRO-AMERICANS WITH JEWISH SOULS             by Rabbi Allen S Maller

There are hundreds of thousands of people from Africa with Jewish souls. Their ancestors came to Africa during Roman times. Most of them lived in the area around Ethiopia and never lost their connection with the Jewish people. Almost all of these Ethiopian Jews now live in Israel. Many other Jews who lived in smaller communities in east and west Africa eventually lost contact with the Ethiopian Jewish center and assimilated into African pagan culture. In later centuries these assimilated Jews were drawn to Islam and Christianity because it reconnected them to their Jewish origins. In the last century some of their descendants inherited a Jewish soul from one of their original Jewish ancestors. This led them to return to the Jewish people by forming separate Black Hebrew sects (both in Africa and in America) or by individual conversion (like Sammy Davis Jr. or the grandfather of opera singer Marian Anderson). How can you know if you have a Jewish soul?

                                                        Signs of a Jewish soul.

1- You like to ask questions? But when you asked them as a child, you were told faith is a gift from God and you shouldn’t question it. This never satisfied you, although others didn’t seem to have a problem with this view.

2- The trinity never made any sense to you even as a young child. You couldn’t believe that people who didn’t believe in Jesus couldn’t go to Heaven. Even though you were told to pray to Jesus, you preferred to pray to God the father, rather than Jesus, the Son of God.

3- You always related to the stories in the Hebrew bible more than to the stories in the New Testament.

4- You found you related well to Jewish people you met at work or at school even though they were very different culturally and religiously from your own family.

5- When you first learned about the Holocaust you reacted more emotionally than did other members of your own family.

6- When you started to learn about Judaism; you felt Jewish ideas and values were very reasonable, and Jewish traditions and heritage were very attractive. You felt you were coming home.

If most of these statements apply to you, you probably have a Jewish soul. If you can find a possible Jewish ancestor you definitely have a Jewish soul says Rabbi Maller. To learn more about Kabbalistic beliefs in reincarnation and the reincarnation of Jewish souls in non-Jewish descendants of Jews who were cut off from the Jewish People read God, Sex and Kabbalah by Rabbi Allen S. Maller

                        An African Homecoming                October 16, 2008, Jersualem Post

For Carolivia Herron, an African American Jewish convert and a retired Harvard University professor of Comparative Literature and African American Studies, documenting Ethiopian Jewry's oral history is a significant part of her personal journey home to the Jewish people and Israel.

"I have no biological connection to Ethiopian Jews, but my heart is with them," confides Herron, an author of numerous works of fiction and non-fiction who spent the past two weeks here documenting personal stories of Ethiopian Jews for a new book. "For many years I wanted to be Jewish. I had this very strong yearning and I can really relate to their struggle to get here (Israel). Ethiopian Jews embody my entire love and desire to be part of the Jewish people."

While her ancestry does not lie directly with these African Jews - Herron can trace her roots back to Sephardim who fled Europe following the Spanish inquisition in 1492 and ended up intermarrying with Gullah Africans off the coast of Georgia and South Carolina - she still feels compelled to use her expertise in the study and documentation of oral history to put into modern words and print the Ethiopian Jewish journey to the Promised Land.

Herron, whose own journey back to Judaism is no less fascinating than those of the people she studies, is an expert in taking verbal memories and weaving them into a story that will have wider appeal. In perhaps her most prized piece of literature, Herron has taken her own family's story and created Always an Olivia, a children's book retelling the journey some Sephardic Jews took from Europe to America, including her own ancestors.

"When I was nine years old and my great-grandmother was 103, she told me the story of my ancestors and my Jewish roots," says Herron, recalling that following her official conversion to Judaism in March 1993, "the first time I lit the Shabbat candles and said the prayers my father suddenly remembered his own grandmother lighting the candles on Friday night and reciting the same prayers."

"I always had this feeling that I wanted to be Jewish," she says. "I remember one of the first images I saw of Ethiopian Jews was of a young girl sitting on an airplane on her way to Israel. I really had a deep understanding for her and felt that same yearning to be in Jerusalem."

"I know that some in the white Jewish community do not understand why someone who is black would also choose to be Jewish," finishes Herron. "Isn't our life hard enough already? But the homecoming of Ethiopian Jews and their entire community's love for Judaism and Israel is a phenomenon that I can completely relate to."

                                             Her Great Grandfather was Jewish

One of the most touching conversions I ever did was a young girl, 10 or 11, brought to me by her mother, to discuss Judaism. The mother was a widow, living back at home with her mother and father, who was a minister. This girl, B, had done some research on Chanukkah for her school class, and in the process both loved what she did, and discovered that her late father  had a Jewish grandfather in Germany.

This kid lived among old-world Quakers and other farmers, but the odd thing about it is that she lived near another couple who were converting. I would not, of course, convert her at that point, but we discussed all of the problems, up and down and sideways. I asked her mother why she would support this.

Her response - her 2 daughters were no longer going to church and she was delighted that B had found a religious home. She hoped her older daughter might also find that of interest. And when I said that I could not imagine doing what she was doing if the positions were reversed, she said it's different for Jews, after the Holocaust and all."

So, she started Hebrew, was to come to classes, and attend services. Which she then did nearly every week, on her own or with her sister.. By the time she began Hebrew school, her Hebrew skills were better than most of the other kids. Her mother drove her the hour in and the hour back and made enormous sacrifices of time for her, and support for her personal practises. People in the shul took her in for holidays and some shabbats. And thus it went.

I moved a couple of years later, and bequeathed her to the next rabbi. Someyears later, we met up again. She was in University. She had converted, changed her name, and was an active member of her Hillel. Bless the girl - she may even now be in rabbinical school.

Rabbi Barbara Borts July 25, 2005

        Jewish souls of Iberian decent become Jews again          
by Rabbi Allen S. Maller

When the king of Spain decided to "cleanse" the country of Jews in 1492, the Jewish community was given the choice of converting to Christianity or expulsion. The majority left, but many converted. Most Jews crossed the border into Portugal. Others went to Morocco, France and Italy. Many chose to settle in the Ottoman Empire. Scarcely five years had passed before the scenario repeated itself in Portugal. But in this case, the Jews were not allowed to leave. The entire Jewish population was forcibly baptized. A handful managed to escape.

Burned at the stake

If it is true that 15 to 20 percent of the population of Portugal was Jewish at the end of the 15th century, as some scholars claim, one gets an idea of how many of today's Portuguese citizens have Jewish roots. Over the years, they assimilated in Christian society, except for small pockets of Jews who continued to practice their religion in secret. Of those who clung to Judaism, many were tried by the Inquisition in the 16th and 17th centuries. Such trials were even held in Brazil. The accused were burned at the stake or imprisoned in monasteries for the rest of their lives.

Notwithstanding all the persecution, one still finds small groups who have preserved Jewish customs and recite Jewish prayers in Portuguese. Three holidays are observed: Yom Kippur, Passover and the Fast of Esther. In addition, they keep the Sabbath in some way. They have special burial customs and do not eat pork on the Sabbath or holidays. They marry only within the community.

Samuel Schwarz writes about the New Christians of Belmonte and how hard it was to gain their trust. He discovered that women were the ones who safeguarded the traditions and knew the prayers by heart. At communal gatherings, they served as cantors and ran the services. One evening, as we tried yet again to convince the New Christians that we were members of the Jewish people, an old woman asked us to recite at least one prayer in 'the Jewish language you say is spoken by the Jews.'" Schwarz chose the Shma prayer "Hear O Israel". Each time he uttered the word "adonay" ("the Lord") the women covered their eyes with their hands. "When we finished," he writes, "the old woman said to those around her in a tone of great authority: 'This man is a Jew. He said adonay!'"

Returning to Judaism

Some of these people are now returning to the Jewish people. Others, who live in North and South America, only find out they have Jewish ancestors when they are drawn to Judaism or to Jews. Kabbalah, the Jewish mystical tradition, claims the souls of most converts to Judaism are reincarnated souls of Jews in previous generations who were cut off from the Jewish people. Through conversion to Judaism they come home. More information about reincarnation and becoming Jewish is in “God, Sex and Kabbalah” by Rabbi Allen S. Maller 

                                                              by Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Every human on earth has 8 great grandparents and 16 great great grandparents. Each of these 24 individuals contributes an equal amount of genetic material to their descendants. Nevertheless, brothers or sisters who share the same 24 ancestors do not have identical genomes. Their physical, mental and personality traits always differ, unless they are identical twins. Every year many hundreds of people whose mother tongue is Polish, Rumanian, Russian or Ukrainian, find out that one or two of their 24 ancestors spoke Yiddish. For most of them this discovery is an interesting fact of little significance. For many of them it might be an embarrassment to be ignored. But for some of them it becomes a life changing discovery. They feel drawn to learn about Jewish music, food, literature, culture and religion. They feel more and more attached in some mysterious way to the Holocaust and the struggle of Israel to live in peace in the Middle East. Many of these people eventually are led to become Jewish either by formal conversion or by informal reversion within Reform Progressive synagogues. According to a mystical Jewish Cabalistic teaching found in Sefer HaPliyah, those people who do feel this powerful attraction to Jewish things and Jewish people, have Jewish souls that are reincarnations of one of their own Jewish ancestors from 3-7 generations in the past. That explains why they react to the discovery of some Jewish heritage in such a unusual way. It also explains why some people who do not even know that they have Jewish ancestors follow a similar path; and only discover a Jewish ancestor years after they have returned to the Jewish people. The Hebrew word for a reincarnated Jewish soul is Gilgul. Many people are born with new souls who are here for the first time. Many people do not reincarnate after their life on this earth is over. Most people who become Jewish, especially now, after the Jewish people have experienced several generations of assimilation, marriage to non-Jews, hiding from anti-semitism and outright genocide, are descendants of people whose children, in one way or another, have been cut off from the Jewish People. Among their non-Jewish descendants a few will inherit a Jewish soul that will seek to return to the Jewish people. It is a religious duty of all Jews to encourage and welcome these people who are on their journey home to the Jewish people. If you think you might have an ancestor who was Jewish, but no one in your family seems to know, you can use a introspective personality and character test to give you some hints.

1- Do you like to ask questions especially about religion? But when you asked them as a child, you were told faith is a gift from God and you shouldn’t question it. This never satisfied you, although others didn’t question it.

2- The trinity never made any sense to you even as a young child. You prayed to God the father more easily than Jesus, the son of God, even though you were told to pray to Jesus. You never could believe that people who didn’t believe in Jesus couldn’t go to Heaven.

3- On first learning of the Holocaust you reacted more emotionally than your friends or other members of your family. You feel some sense of connection with the Jewish struggle to defend Israel. You have an attraction to Jewish music, culture, and Jewish festivals. You have always been more open to people who were culturally, nationally or religiously different from your own family than your friends or class mates.

If you answer yes to all three of these items you probably have Jewish ancestors. Many, but not all, people who answer yes to all four items will be interested in learning more about their Jewish roots. If you become very interested in studying Judaism you might have a Jewish soul. According to Jewish mystical teachings (Kabbalah), many (not all) people reincarnate after they die. This is especially true for Jews who died and had no Jewish children who survived them (Sefer HaPliyah). Their souls reincarnate in one of their non-Jewish descendants who is drawn to; Jewish things, Jewish people and Judaism. For more information see God, Sex and Kabbalah by Rabbi Allen S. Maller
If the following item also applies to you, you certainly have a Jewish soul. When you start to learn about Judaism: the ideas and values seem reasonable to you; the traditions and heritage are very attractive to you; and the non-Jews around you, and you yourself, are surprised that you slowly come to feel that you are coming home.