This is a life, in stories, of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1700-1760), the founder of Hasidism. The Baal Shem Tov, or the Besht, as he is commonly called, led a revival in Judaism that put love and joy at the center of religious life and championed the piety of the common folk against the rabbinic establishment. He has been recognized as one of the greatest teachers in Jewish history, and much of what is alive and vibrant in Judaism today, in all denominations, derives from his inspiration. Abraham Joshua Heschel, who was descended from several illustrious Hasidic dynasties, wrote: "The Baal Shem Tov brought heaven to earth. He and his disciples, the Hasidim, banished melancholy from the soul and uncovered the ineffable delight of being a Jew."
Yitzhak Buxbaum is a maggid, a traditional Jewish Storyteller. He is the author of nine books, including Jewish Spiritual Practice, Jewish Tales of Mystic Joy, Jewish Tales of Holy Women and Storytelling and Spirituality in Judaism.