The Letter Tzadi (צ)
We will first note that many people mistakenly call this letter tzadik. This happens because the letter after it is ק (kuf), and when they recite the letters of the Aleph-Bet, they attach the first sound of the kuf to the tzadi. However, some people say that the explanation for this may be because the letter צ in fact represents righteousness. (In Hebrew, a צדיק (tzadik) means a righteous person.) However, the letter also represents צַיִד (tzayid) hunting. Like many other letters that we have looked at, this letter also has a dual meaning, which comes to teach us that each person can choose they want – they can go to either extreme.
It is interesting to look at the location of the letter צ within the Hebrew alphabet.
The letter ס (samech) – represents and symbolizes safeguarding and closure
The letter ע (ayin) – represents and symbolizes sight
The letter פ (peh) – represents and symbolizes speech
Then, after these three letters, comes the letter צ (tzadi). So here we see a type of “story” of letters. A person, who safeguards and protects his eyes from evil things and protects his mouth and speech from saying bad things, will be a tzadi(k), righteous individual.
Another interesting thing is that this is the 18th letter in the Aleph-Bet. In Jewish tradition, the number 18 represents life, because of the word חַי (chai) life – which has a numerical value of 18 (8+10). One, who safeguards himself and uses his limbs and body properly, will be a righteous person (tzadik) and live a long life.
This letter also has a final letter form (when it appears at the end of a word), which is ץ, which indicates the power that a righteous person has. It is as if this person is strongly planted in the ground like a tree and a foundation. As the sages taught – a righteous person is the foundation of the world and through his/her personality and actions the entire world exists.
We should mention that righteousness is not absolute. In the Book of Genesis it says that Noah was a righteous person (tzadik) in his generation. The commentators say that he was indeed righteous relative to his generation, but if he had lived in the generation of Abraham he would not have been considered a tzadik. There are other commentators that defend Noah, the builder of the Ark. They say that this verse is in his praise, that he was a tzadik despite his generation. He succeeded to rise above the depravity of those around him, and despite the declining spirituality of the society, he was able to reach great spiritual heights of righteousness. In their opinion, if Noah had lived in the generation of Abraham he would have succeeded to reach even higher levels.
In order to better understand the concept of relative righteousness, let us look at Abraham’s negotiations to save of the people of Sodom. As you probably remember, G-d decided to destroy Sodom because of the overwhelming wickedness there. Abraham, who lived not far from Sodom, tried to save the city (and his nephew Lot) from destruction. He tried to do this through the merit of the צַדִיקִים (tzadikim) righteous people who possibly lived there. (The word tzadikim, which is the plural of tadik, starts with and is represented by the letter צ which we are discussing.)
In the verses in Genesis 18, the word tzadikim is written in an incomplete form – צַדִיקִם – as the word is missing a י (yod). The commentators say this teaches us that Abraham didn’t mean tzadikim in the full meaning of the word. He knew that no one truly righteous lived in the city of Sodom. However, Abraham would have been satisfied with the people who were just righteous relative to the sinners of the city. We might say – people who weren’t wicked. Sometimes, in the lowest spiritual situation, even this is an advantage.
Someone who has the letter צ in their name is a person who has unique ideas. It is likely that they are active in charity (צְדָקָה – tzdaka) organizations. They love family and are very connected to their children. They are forgiving to those around them, and don’t remember injustices done to them. Another prominent characteristic is that they have a talent for art.