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There is a well-known legend that there are always 36 "hidden" righteous people in the world at any given time. The source given for this is the Gemara in Succah 45b, where indeed it mentions 36 tzaddikim. However, nowhere does the Gemara describe them as being hidden. What is the original source for the notion that their righteousness is a secret?

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One (very late) source for this, is this work (pub. 1934) which casually assumes (evidently reflecting an earlier belief) that the 36 righteous folk are hidden:

אין העולם מתקיים ועומד אלא בזכות ל"ו צדיקים נסתרים

  • Hey hit and run downvoter, other than disliking me, and the lacking the literacy or articulation to respond with substance, is there any reason for your serial downvotes of my posts? – mevaqesh Dec 27 '16 at 22:45

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