The Baal Shem Tov once gathered a select group of his students and announced: “Come, I will show you someone who sincerely and wholeheartedly welcomes guests into his home.”
The Baal Shem Tov asked for his horse and wagon to be prepared for a trip.
The wheels of the wagon flew through fields and forests, mountains and valleys. By late afternoon, the Baal Shem Tov and his students arrived at a village, and the wagon came to a halt in front of an inn.
The wagon came to a halt in front of an inn.
A Jewish man came running out of the inn to greet them. He called out: “Hooray, there are guests! Precious Jewish guests!”
The innkeeper went over to the travelers and invited them into his home.
“Come, dear rabbis, come into my home. You can rest up and eat something. You will refresh yourselves, and at the same time bring life to me! It’s not every day that I am so fortunate to do the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim [welcoming guests]!”
The Baal Shem Tov responded, “Perhaps it would be better that we continue on our way to the nearby city. There we will have a mikvah, and we will be able to pray with the congregation and hear the Torah reading.”
“Oh, but I have a mikvah and a Torah scroll right here; and together with all of you, we will also have a minyan [quorum of 10],” the innkeeper said, entreating them to remain. He added that if they would like to pray in the city on Shabbat, they could walk there, because it was within the permissible area one is allowed to walk on Shabbat.
In the end, the Baal Shem Tov agreed to the request of the innkeeper, and the travelers became his guests.
While the innkeeper lived modestly, he offered his guests his best rooms and did everything he could to make their stay comfortable. After they had prayed, he invited them to a table set with delicious food. He himself stood by to serve them.
On Shabbat morning, they all walked to the nearby city to pray. After Shabbat, the innkeeper prepared a lavish melaveh malkah feast (meal after the conclusion of Shabbat), and even invited many more guests from the area. He radiated joy as he greeted his guests and bustled around making sure everyone was cared for.
The Baal Shem Tov and his students spent a few more days with the villager, who took care of all their needs personally and did everything in his power to make sure they felt at home.
Before leaving, the Baal Shem Tov asked their host if he had any special requests.
“My only request is that you pray for me that I merit life in the world to come,” he answered.