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Q: Name and Inspiration for 1970's Episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Name and Inspiration for 1970's Episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Books and Literature
Asked by: statman-ga
List Price: $7.50
Posted: 08 Nov 2004 12:17 PST
Expires: 08 Dec 2004 12:17 PST
Question ID: 426228
Himan Brown produced CBS Radio Mystery Theater from 1974 to 1982.  The
show duplicated the format of the classic 1940's series Inner Sanctum

Some time in the mid 1970's there was an episode based on the Hebrew
legend of thirty-six just men.  The Hebrew letters for thirty-six were
part of the episode title (I think) and also the name of the group of

According to the legend, God preserves the world as long as the
thirty-six just men exist within it.

The main character in the episode becomes the new thirty-sixth man
after being named by his predecessor who dies shortly afterward.  The
rest of the episode is about the attempt by the dark side to tempt the
thirty-sixth man and bring the world to an end.  They fail.

At the end of the episode, the thirty-sixth man is granted his request
for his wife to understand him.

What is the name of this episode?

Also, what are some sources covering the evolution of the legend? 

I am willing to add a $5 tip to the answer for locating information on
works in world literature available in English for which this legend
is either an inspiration or element of the plot.
Subject: Re: Name and Inspiration for 1970's Episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater
Answered By: pinkfreud-ga on 08 Nov 2004 13:34 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
I loved that show!

The episode you're remembering was called "The 36th Man." It starred Ross Martin.

"Nov 14, 1974  The 36th Man  Ross Martin"

CBS Radio Mystery Theater Fan Site: 1974 Season Directory]

"The 36th Man 

Set in the early 1900?s, this tale is based on a Hebrew legend which
states that the earth is protected by the lives of 36 human beings
whose lives are virtuous. Harry Cohen appears to be a poor businessman
and this wife, Ruth, is frustrated by his childlike kindness which
prohibits them from getting ahead. When approached by an elderly man,
during a torrential rainstorm, Harry accepts the burden of being one
of the 36 unblemished souls. He is tempted several times by the Prince
of Darkness, his mistress Lilly, and by his wife, but Harry accepts
his burden and assumes the role of the 36th man."

CBS Radio Mystery Theater Forum
Here's some info about the legend upon which this program was based:

"JM [Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove]: I believe the number '36' is very
significant in Jewish mysticism.

DSD [David S. Devor, Chairman and Exec. Director PROJECT MIND
FOUNDATION, Jerusalem]: That's correct. It is said that, at any given
time, there are 36 hidden Righteous Men who maintain the world, or if
you like, prevent it from being destroyed by the forces of Evil.

JM: The 36 Tzaddiks. 

DSD: They?re called 'Tzadikim,' the 'Righteous Ones'. In Hebrew, Lamed
Vav, are the letters that express 'thirty-six'. Why 36? It's
conjecture. Eighteen numerically symbolizes Life so perhaps it refers
to two forms of life, a Higher Life and a Lower Life that have to be

Project Mind: Virtual U Wisdom Radio Interview

This article provides quite a bit of information about the legend:

The Dozenal Society of Great Britain: The Thirty-Six Just Men

One of the most famous literary adaptations of the legend is "The Last
of the Just":

"Before the study of the Holocaust became the focal point for all
Jewish suffering throughout the ages, one of the most powerful
evocations of historical anti-Semitism was depicted in Andre
Schwarz-Bart?s The Last of the Just. Schwarz-Bart was born in 1928, in
Metz, the son of immigrants from Poland. In World War II he joined the
French Resistance, but returning home, he learned that his entire
family had been murdered in the Nazi death camps.

Rather than be swallowed by this catastrophe, Schwarz-Bart confronted
it. He wrote The Last of the Just in 1959, in French, but unlike his
more published contemporary, Elie Wiesel, there were no other
Holocaust narratives forthcoming. Indeed, no more were necessary,
since this was a book that evinced an eternal Jewish pathos - both
tragic and hopeful - that did not require further explication. The
story sought to reinterpret the ancient Jewish legend of the Lamed Vav
Zaddikim ('Thirty-Six Righteous Men') beginning from the 12th century
massacre of York to Auschwitz. Although the Jewish tradition is
distorted in the novel - Schwarz-Bart views the Zaddikim ('Righteous
Men') as a hereditary clan, rather than three dozen hidden saints
whose virtues preserve the Jews in each generation - the book remains
a powerful indictment of Christendom from the era of the religious
poet, Yom-Tov ben Isaac of Joigny, until the death of the fictional
Ernie Levy, the 'last of the just."

Congregation Emanu-El: Andre Schwarz-Bart, The Last of the Just

A very entertaining fantasy novel, "The Alchemist's Door," by Lisa
Goldstein, is based upon the legend:

"Dr. John Dee has known power and respect, but now the famed occultist
finds himself slipping out of Elizabethan England like a fugitive...
Dee's flight brings him to Praha - Prague - the capital of the Holy
Roman Empire. Here, seeking the patronage of the Hapsburg emperor, Dee
meets an erudite older man, whom the Christian occultist is astonished
and anxious to learn is a Jew. But unmistakable portents indicate that
Dee and Rabbi Judah Loew, though sons of enemy cultures, must work
together. If they do not, the world will be destroyed.

According to Jewish tradition, 'the world rests on the shoulders of 36
righteous men ... [I]f they die before their time, or leave the path
of righteousness, the world will come to an end' - for whoever kills
one of the 36 gains the power to remake the world however he pleases.
But only God knows who the 36 are. Loew and Dee must combine their
alien talents to discover the identity of the 36th man, and save him -
before either the mad Hapsburg emperor, the treacherous Edward Kelley
or the fallen angel finds the man and creates a literal Hell on Earth.
But even with Creation itself at stake, can a Christian and a Jew make
common cause?"

Science Fiction Book Reviews: The Alchemist's Door

It's a long stretch, but the popular film "Men in Black" may be seen
as an extension of the legend into modern times:

"The movie Men in Black is nothing more than a modernized and updated
version of famous Jewish legend:  the Lamed Vav Tzadikim, or 'lamed
vavniks,' the 36 hidden righteous people.  There is a teaching in the
Talmud that says the world depends on lamed vav tzadikim, on 36
totally righteous and hidden people for its existence.  Later
teachings describe these 'hidden tzadikim' as very humble, ordinary,
normal appearing people.  Yet the existence of the world depends on
their quiet and unassuming faith and righteousness. There are many
folk tales which describe some kind of great danger that faced a
community, and one of these lamed vavniks quietly appeared, took care
of things, and once again faded into obscurity."

Rabbi Barry Leff Digest: Number 55  Date 091203

Google search strategy:

Google Web Search: "the 36th man" "ross martin"

Google Web Search: 36 OR "thirty-six" tzadikim OR zaddikim OR "lamed vav"

I hope this helps. If anything is unclear or incomplete, please
request clarification; I'll gladly offer further assistance before you
rate my answer.

Best regards,

Clarification of Answer by pinkfreud-ga on 08 Nov 2004 14:07 PST
Here is another literary example, a story by Shmuel Yosef Agnon:

"Another story in 'Contes de JÚrusalem' is about a country that could
be any country. This one in particular is punished with a drought
marked by an inexorably blue sky. Furthermore, enemies are always on
the attack, the earth is barren and rivers are empty. The population
is divided into two parties: On one side are the cover-headed, on the
other the naked-headed.... The two parties are ready to destroy each
other. Yet there's a single individual who is beyond any affiliation.
He furtively leaves the city, praying for God to send a compassionate
storm to stop the destruction. When the others find out, they
excommunicate him. His sin: not to have alerted the authorities to his
wishes. A decision is then made to have everyone build a huge tent for
protection from the storm, which must be large enough to cover the
entire country. A commission is established to decide what name to
give to the tent. Alternative commissions take the responsibility of
studying the etymology and orthography of the chosen name. As the
population wastes its energy in trivialities, God allows rain to fall
- and the barren land is fertilized, just as modern Israel itself was
fertilized. I hear a distant echo in Agnon's story of the Jewish
tradition that says that every generation includes a total of 36 just
men. By the way, this tradition was studied by Max Brod, Kafka's
friend. Unacquainted with one another, these just men navigate the
world and are replaced as soon as they die. Right now their dynasty
redeems us."

Forward: Arts & Letters

Clarification of Answer by pinkfreud-ga on 08 Nov 2004 17:39 PST
Another literary reference:

"Mystic Tales from the Zohar. By ARYEH WINEMAN, with Papercut Art by
DIANE PALLEY. Philadelphia/Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society,

The Zohar is mostly a commentary on the Tanakh, especially the Book of
Bereshit, Genesis, but it eschews matters earthly, searching
everywhere for the esoteric, the spiritual, the supernatural... The
focus is on eight stories from the Zohar...

A supposedly ignorant young bridegroom turns out to be a modest tzadik
nistar (hidden pious one) which Wineman's commentary links to the
lamed vav tzadikim, the 36 righteous ones of the earth, while his
bride turns out to be a celestial bride, the equivalent of the

FindArticles: Mystic Tales

Clarification of Answer by pinkfreud-ga on 14 Nov 2004 11:38 PST
I've just learned that all of the "CBS Radio Mystery Theater" episodes
(in MP-3 format) are being offered on eBay:

Here is the 1974 season, which includes "The 36th Man":
statman-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
Great answer.  Very thorough and fast.

Subject: Re: Name and Inspiration for 1970's Episode of CBS Radio Mystery Theater
From: pinkfreud-ga on 09 Nov 2004 11:28 PST
Thank you for the five-star rating and the generous tip! This was a
fascinating question that was very enjoyable to research.


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