We skipped (purposefully) a Lamed Vavnick that was explicitly labeled by R’ Simeon bar Yochai. To quote our text in Sukkah “Hezekiah further stated in the name of R. Jeremiah who said it in the name of R. Simeon b. Yochai, I am able to exempt the whole world from judgment from the day that I was born until now, and were Elazar, my son, to be with me [we could exempt it] from the day of the creation of the world to the present time, and were Yotham the son of Uzziah with us, [we could exempt it] from the creation of the world to its final end.”
Yotam was a clearly an important man. Using the explanation from the Artscroll Commentary:
“Yotam’s great merit derived from the extraordinary self-sacrifice he displayed in honoring his father Uzziah. Uzziah was a metzora (afflicted with a skin condition). [He was accordingly banished from Jerusalem, and could not fulfill his duties as king.] During the years of his father’s affliction, Yotam ruled in his stead, but to preserve his father’s honor, did not take the title of king, and issued all his decrees in Uzziah’s name. Yotam is thus the exemplar of the sentiment expressed in this verse (Malachi 1:6) ‘A son honors his father.’
The Artscroll Commentary continues:
“Altough there existed throughout the generations a great number of righteous individuals three (Yotam, R’ Simeon bar Yochai, and Elazar ben Simeon) were unique in that their sustenance in this world did not draw in any way upon the portion set aside for them in the World to Come – thus their merit remained whole and entirely undiminished…Although it is nowhere revealed that Yotam suffered in his lifetime, it must have been so; otherwise R’ Simeon would not have attributed to him the greatness that he did.”
It seems likely the many, if not all, of the 36 suffered during their lifetime; either from external situations like time and place that they live or self-inflicted pain due to their personal situation sometimes in order to conceal their identity. We will see this later in the book “The Last of the Just” but also through mystical stories that we will begin reviewing shortly.