The Jewish people are known as the "people of the book" for our veneration, preservation, and constant attempts to live according to and gain more meaning from the Torah, or the first five books of the Old Testament. Another important book for us is the Talmud, in which learned Rabbis debate, explicate, and attempt to fill in the gaps in the Torah to make Jewish law more applicable to daily life. The Talmud is written in many styles, including back and forth conversations and debates as well as stories and folklore.
While we do see some back and forth discussions in the Torah, especially in the story of Sodom and Gemorah where Abraham tries to save the cities by bargaining with G-d. While G-d starts out requiring proof of 50 good people to save the cities, Abraham manages to get the number down to 10. Now, we know that there were not even 10 as the cities were destroyed. In the Talmud there is a similar discussion about the number of good righteous people who must exist at any given time in order to keep the entire world existing, and the number is 36.
While many readers may be unfamiliar with the tale of the 36 Lamed-Vov (Hebrew letters have numerical values, and the letters Lamed and Vov add up to 36), I can remember my Orthodox Jewish grandfather telling me about these people, and how they were always hidden (sometimes even from themselves) until called upon or needed. In fact, they were often so hidden that nobody would even believe that they were the righteous, typically showing up as vagrants, thieves, gamblers, and liars. The ultimate lesson of the 36 being that we should treat every person, including ourselves, as if he or she might be one of the Lamed-Vov.