One day, it was revealed to Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov that he had merited that a great soul would be his "roommate" and partner in the World To Come. The identity of his roommate was also revealed to him as being the soul of a certain homesteader in a backwoods village many miles from his home.

Desiring to learn more about his destined partner, Rabbi Israel journeyed to the village and asked after the person whose name he had been given. The man turned out to be a simple and ignorant Jew—it was doubted that he was literate enough to even read the prayers properly or master a few verses of Chumash. A few villagers described him as a "boor" and a "glutton."

"I am a simple, uneducated Jew," said the man, "who earns his living off the land. There is nothing special about me."Rabbi Israel rented a room in the man's house and observed his behavior for several days. Indeed, his destined roommate seemed a very ordinary man, with the mannerisms of a simple peasant. Never did Rabbi Israel see him with an open book beyond a terse dispatch of the requisite daily prayers, nor did he discern any exemplary behavior in any area. The only thing remarkable about him was his diet: the man consumed a vast quantity of food. At a single meal he would down what the average man ate in a week. His girth bore ample witness to his eating habits: physically, at least, he was a prodigious man.

Finally, Rabbi Israel asked him directly. "I have it from a reliable source," he said to his host, "that you are held in great esteem in Heaven. Perhaps you can tell me why this is so?"

"I am a simple, uneducated Jew," said the man, "who earns his living off the land. There is nothing special about me. Maybe you should check your sources again."

"Have you ever, in your life, done a great deed?" persisted Rabbi Israel. "Perhaps you once saved a life, or gave a great sum to charity, or made some other great sacrifice for the Almighty's sake?"

"I'm sorry to disappoint you," said the man, "but you have the wrong fellow. I've never done anything of that sort—I'm just an illiterate farmer. The only extraordinary thing about me is the amount of food I consume. No one eats as much as I do."

"Why do you eat so much?" asked Rabbi Israel.

"That's because of my father," said the man.

"Your father?"

"My father died al kiddush Hashem ("for the sanctification of G‑d's name"). At a pogrom many years ago, he was dragged from his bed and given the choice of baptism or death. When he refused to kiss the cross, they set the barn on fire and threw him into the flames. But my father was a wisp of a man—all skin and bones. In minutes, he was completely consumed by the fire—there was scarcely anything there to burn. So I resolved that, with me, it would never be that way. If it should ever happen that I must burn for the sake of G‑d's holy name, I will burn, burn and burn! Boy will I burn!"