Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov and his student Reb Volf Kitzes were traveling together to the Mogilev region for Shabbat. Reb Leib, a wealthy local, opposed the Baal Shem Tov’s revolutionary approach, but he was a hospitable man and offered to host the guests. He had room for only one, so took Reb Volf to his own home and arranged for the Baal Shem Tov to stay with Reb Shammai, a well-to-do friend.

On their way home from shul, Shammai turned to the Baal Shem Tov and said, “I want you to know that I eat the Shabbat meal together with my wife at the table. I hope you don’t mind, but if not, please let me know and you are welcome to find somewhere else to eat.”

“No, that’s fine,” replied the saintly Baal Shem Tov. And so, they made the traditional blessings for the Shabbat eve and started their meal.

Shammai enjoyed honoring the Shabbat with many dishes and delicacies, taking his time to host a hearty and lengthy meal. Meanwhile, Reb Volf’s Shabbat dinner with Reb Leib had ended, so he decided to join up with his teacher. He entered Shammai’s home and saw that the dinner was still well underway.

As they ate together, the Baal Shem Tov turned to his host and said, “I have a personal custom to dance during Shabbat dinner, so I would like to know if it’s OK with you to dance now.”

“Is it Simchat Torah today?” laughed Shammai, “Why are you asking about dancing now? It’s not the time for that!”

But the Baal Shem Tov persisted, and his host eventually agreed. The Baal Shem Tov rose, grabbed Reb Volf’s hands, and the duo started dancing together—right there in the dining room on a regular Shabbat night.

Shammai and his wife couldn’t help but laugh at the strange sight. Much to his surprise, however, after watching the fervor and passion, Shammai couldn’t help feeling a bit of a twitch. He started fidgeting in his seat, snapping his fingers and tapping his feet to the beat, all the while looking over his shoulder to his wife with a little shame.

Soon Shammai could no longer contain himself, and he jumped out of his chair to join the dancing. Shammai’s wife got swept up in the fervor, and she too, danced along in her place.

At last, the dance was over, they sat down to conclude the meal, and the Baal Shem Tov and his disciple went off to sleep.

“What just happened?” Shammai asked his wife. “What came over us to dance like a bunch of crazies? Who was this man and his student that Reb Leib sent us?” they wondered.

The next day, the same scenario repeated itself. The Baal Shem Tov wouldn’t take no for an answer, and before long, Shammai was dancing along with the Rebbe and his student. It was then that it dawned upon him that there must be more to this man. “He must be a holy person,” Shammai thought, “I sense something special in these dances.” His suspicions were confirmed at the third Shabbat meal when the dancing reached an entirely different level. A spiritual ecstasy came over the entire group as their feet were swept off the floor, the Baal Shem Tov’s face aflame with a fiery, holy glow.

Shammai now knew for certain that his guest was a very holy man indeed.

When the flame of the havdalah candle had been extinguished and the Shabbat Queen escorted on her way, Shammai turned to the Baal Shem Tov, “I see that you are a holy man. Please, tell me, what do you need? How can I help you? Do you need any money?”

“I don’t need any of your money,” replied the Baal Shem Tov. “Please, can you host a melaveh malkah meal for me?”

“Of course, it would be my honor.”

“Bless me, holy Rebbe,” said Shammai as they sat together partaking of the melaveh malkah.

“I can bless you with one of three things: long life, wealth, or an upstanding family.”

Shammai was a wise man, so he replied, “Rebbe, I want all three.”

And so it was: Shamami lived until a ripe old age, nearly 100 years old, amid much wealth, and merited to bear generations of upright, devout Jews.

With business in Mogilev all wrapped up, the Baal Shem Tov and Reb Volf continued on their way to the city of Sarigrad, where the famed Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polnoy lived. At the time, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef was a fierce opponent of Chassidism. They hitched a ride with a large caravan and arrived early in the morning, at the central spot in town for parking coaches and watering horses.

As was the practice in many towns in those times, the local coachmen would come early in the morning and park their coaches at this spot, leaving the horses with an attendant who would water and care for the tired animals. The Jewish coachmen would then make their way to the synagogue to pray.

When the Baal Shem Tov and his student arrived, they didn’t immediately alight from the wagon and make their way with everyone else to the synagogue. “Get down from the coach, old man,” the coachmen called out gruffly. Unfazed, the Baal Shem Tov called out to some of the other Jewish coachmen and began telling them wondrous stories. Wide-eyed with rapt attention, the coachmen couldn’t leave, and before long, a large crowd had assembled, listening to this passionate Jew relate fascinating and soul-stirring stories.

Meanwhile, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef had arrived at the synagogue and was surprised to see the usual quorum lacking. He sent his attendant to the coach depot to see what was going on—along with a stern warning that they immediately come back to pray.

The attendant couldn’t believe what he saw: there the townspeople all were, listening to a strange man telling stories! Getting closer to inspect further, he, too, was soon caught in the Baal Shem Tov’s spell.

Not hearing back from his attendant, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef decided to see for himself what was going on. Approaching the scene of the Baal Shem Tov’s storytelling wonders, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef couldn’t help but feel himself drawn to the holy Rebbe’s voice. A remarkable scholar, Rabbi Yaakov Yosef immediately understood that these weren’t regular stories, rather deep Divine secrets.

“Who are you?!” Rabbi Yaakov Yosef demanded.

“That is something I would like to tell you privately.”

“Very well, let’s talk after prayers.”

With that, the Baal Shem Tov finally came down from the coach towards Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef went on to become one of the Baal Shem Tov’s foremost disciples, authoring the first authoritative work of his teachings called Toldot Yaakov Yosef.

(Hamashpia (Havlin, Shlomo Zalman), p. 124-125)