One year, during the Yom Kippur prayers, the Baal Shem Tov saw with his holy spirit that harm would come to the Jewish people if he and his disciples did not make the traditional blessing of the new moon immediately following the holiday. Then this great mitzvah would be joined to the side of merit and incline the balance of the scale of judgment to good.

But the new moon was not visible at the end of Yom Kippur, and the blessing could not be recited. So the Baal Shem Tov, who was depressed about this, attempted to use his mystic powers to cause the moon to appear. He asked his disciples several times to go outside and see if the moon was visible, but in spite of his great efforts, the skies remained overcast with dark clouds, and it seemed unlikely there would be a moon that night.

The Baal Shem Tov’s disciples knew nothing about their master’s worries or about the heavenly decree and how important it was that they bless the moon after Yom Kippur. It was their custom to celebrate at the end of Yom Kippur, since they had completed their divine service successfully, led by their holy master, the Baal Shem Tov, whose service on Yom Kippur was like that of the high priest in the ancient Temple. They had full trust that their prayers were accepted and that they were signed and sealed for a good year.

So this time too, they were joyously dancing with holy fervor. At first, they danced in the outer room of the Baal Shem Tov’s house, but afterward, carried on the wave of their exuberant joy, they burst into their master’s room and danced in his presence. When the joy and ecstasy of their dancing surged even more strongly, they dared to draw the Baal Shem Tov himself into their circle. They swept their holy master into their midst, and he began to dance with them.

While they were dancing this sacred dance, those outside suddenly called out loudly that the moon was visible, and they all went out quickly to bless the moon that night.

The Baal Shem Tov then said that what he could not accomplish by his mystic powers, the Chassidim had accomplished by their joy.

Reprinted with permission from Jewish Tales of Mystic Joy, by Yitzhak Buxbaum.