The dry ground was cracking open, the leaves were fading on the trees and the animals were parched. It had not rained for months, and the area was suffering from a severe drought.

The sincere and G‑d-fearing people of one town decided to declare a day of communal fasting and spiritual accounting. (Jewish tradition and law state that a communal fast should be declared in times of serious drought.)

It had not rained for months

But nothing seemed to help. The produce continued to dry up, animals were dying, and still, not a single cloud could be spotted in the sky.

People began to wonder if this was it, if they were about to face the bitter end. Desperate for guidance and inspiration during this challenging time, they invited a well-known and respected maggid (preacher) to their town to share his wisdom.

Standing in the center of the synagogue, his face aflame, the maggid launched words of fury and vitriol at the crowd.

"You are all wicked!" he shouted. "Your sins have separated you from G‑d! Do you truly think that there is no Judge and no judgment?! Be thankful that you are suffering! May it cause you to return to Him with complete repentance!"

Men, women and children heard the maggid's words and burst into bitter tears.

Suddenly, a young man dressed in peasant clothing stood up in the crowd. "What do you have against Jewish people?" he questioned the maggid. "Jewish people are good."

The maggid glared at the young man.

Undeterred by the maggid’s harsh stare, the young man addressed the people in the synagogue: "My fellow Yidden! Stop crying! Let us dance, and it will rain by the time we have finished the afternoon prayers!"

The sincere townsfolk who were gathered in the synagogue weren't sure what to make of this. Who is this man, and where did he come from? they thought. Is he crazy? And how can we ignore the words of the respected maggid?

As if sensing their questions, the young man began quoting the sages in support of his seemingly wild statements. His sincere words penetrated everyone's hearts, and they started to dance.

And as they danced, at last the heavens opened up, and it began pouring rain.

Before departing, the mysterious young man showered the good townsfolk with blessings. People realized that he was no regular peasant and that he must be one of the hidden tzaddikim (“righteous ones”) of their generation.

Who was this young man?

When the rain tapered off, the man left the village and continued his wandering. In every town he visited, he would ignite the latent spark within everyone's heart.

Who was this young man with the beaming face and the peasant's clothing?

His name was Israel, and he would later become known to the world as the Baal Shem Tov.