The Soul of the Ba'al Shem Tov
The Tzaddik, Rabbi Adam Baal Shem, recounted that the soul of the Baal Shem Tov, was the Gilgul (Reincarnation) of a simple Jew who lived in Safed, Israel in the year 5333.
Once, this simple Jew had just completed Tikun Chatzos (midnight prayers for the destroyed Holy Temple), when he heard a knock on his door.
"Who's there?" he asked.
"It is Eliyahu Hanavi (Elijah the Prophet)."
He quickly opened the door and when Eliyahu entered, the room filled with light and joy.
"I have come to tell you the time of the coming of Moshiach (Messiah) and the Final Redemption. But first, you must tell me about the special deed you did on the day of your Bar Mitzvah. This deed has caused the Heavenly Court to rule that you are worthy of the revelation of the most esoteric of all secrets, the time of the Final Redemption and the coming of the Moshaich."
The simple Jew answered, "What I did was only for the glory of G d and I will not reveal it to anyone. If this means that you won't tell me the secret of the time of the Final Redemption, then I'll have to forego that knowledge. I believe that a man's deeds should be solely for the glory of G d."
Suddenly, Eliyahu disappeared and returned to Heaven. There, he found a great commotion caused by the man's loyalty to G d, a loyalty which prevented him from learning one of the most important and deepest secrets of Heaven, the time of the coming of the Moshiach and the Final Redemption. The Heavenly Court then decided that Eliyahu should nevertheless return and teach the simple Jew the depth and secrets of Torah.
This simple man was unique in his generation, but as he had wished, no one knew of his greatness. His deeds were solely for the glory of G d.
When the time came for him to pass on to the Heavenly Worlds, his pure soul was brought before the Heavenly Court. It was ruled that his reward would be to return again to the earth and be reborn. This time he would be revealed to the world, and through him, a new way of life. He would purify the world with his spirit. Thus would glorify the Holy One Blessed be He, fill the earth with wisdom and thereby hasten the ultimate redemption and coming of Moshiach.
It was this selfsame soul of the simple Jew of Safed that was reborn in Rabbi Yisrael Baal Shem Tov on Chai Elul of 1698.
And so it was.
Adapted by Tzvi Meir Cohane (Howard M. Cohn, Patent Attorney) from a story in HATAMIM as translated in STORIES OF THE BAAL SHEM TOV by Yisroel Klapholtz