Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of the Chassidic
movement, was once asked: "Why is it that Chassidim burst into song and
dance at the slightest provocation? Is this the behavior of a healthy, sane
The Baal Shem Tov responded with a story:
Once, a musician came to town -- a musician of great but unknown talent. He
stood on a street corner and began to play.
Those who stopped to listen could not tear themselves away, and soon a large
crowd stood enthralled by the glorious music whose equal they had never heard.
Before long they were moving to its rhythm, and the entire street was
transformed into a dancing mass of humanity.
A deaf man walking by wondered: Has the world gone mad? Why are the
townspeople jumping up and down, waving their arms and turning in circles in
middle of the street?
"Chassidim," concluded the Baal Shem Tov, "are moved by the
melody that issues forth from every creature in G-d's creation. If this makes
them appear mad to those with less sensitive ears, should they therefore cease