Shortly after the Spanish Inquisition, a Spanish Jew named Joseph Jospa arrived in Krakow. He was a great scholar and a tzadik (righteous person), and was greatly respected by the Jews of Krakow, who called him the Spanish Tzadik. Being 50 years of age and unmarried, he lived by himself. Thirty years went by in this manner until a tragic event changed this. A young businessman from Krakow was killed during a business trip to Prague, leaving a widow with no children. The businessman's brother performed a chalitza ceremony in the Rabbinical Court of Krakow. It was the custom of Krakow in those days for the chalitza ceremony to be a community event, after which the rabbi of the Rabbinical Court would bless the woman that she should soon marry and have children. Then the shamash would announce that if any man present wished to marry the woman, he should present himself to the Court.
No one responded on that particular occasion, but about five months later, Joseph Jospa, the Spanish Tzadik, came to the Court and announced that he wished to marry the widow, if she would agree. He explained that he had not intended to get married, but now, for certain reasons which he did not wish to reveal, he wished to marry despite his advanced years.
The Court then sent for the widow. Immediately upon arriving in the Court, even before she had a chance to ask why she was summoned, she burst into tears.
"Why are you crying?" they asked her.
"I have a terrible secret weighing me down, but I can't make up my mind whether to tell you about it," she replied.
She said she had been having a recurrent dream in which her father, who passed away many years before, appeared to her and asked her to do something. She could not decide whether to listen to him. She was worried and asked the Court for advice.
The rabbis of the Court told her that it would be best if she would tell them what the dream was. She said that in her first dream, her father appeared to her dressed in his Shabbos clothes, put his hands over her head, blessed her and said, "And now I wish you mazel tov, for it has been decreed that you marry the Spanish Tzadik, Joseph Jospa."
She had awoken from this dream trembling violently, but put it out of her mind. She had the dream again, but again did not take it seriously. Then her father appeared to her looking very serious and told her to that there was no way out of it, as it had been decided in the Heavenly Court. She must speak to someone to arrange the marriage. If she listened to him, he continued, she would be blessed with a son. But if she refused she would come to a bitter end.
Three more times she had the dream, and she finally decided to go to the Court about it. She had just made the decision to go, when the shamash arrived, informing her that the Court had sent for her.
When she finished her story, the rabbis of the Court looked at each other in amazement and told the woman that Joseph Jospa had come to them and told them that he wanted to marry her. She now had no doubt that it was G-d's will that she marry the tzadik, and the marriage was arranged. The wedding was a great celebration for the whole community. Everyone in Krakow felt that this was no ordinary wedding, but that it held an inner significance beyond their comprehension.
In the second year of their marriage, they were blessed with a son, whom Joseph Jospa named Elijah, after Elijah the Prophet. When Elijah was two, Joseph Jospa taught him Torah until he was of bar mitzva age, and he studied diligently.
About two weeks before Elijah's bar mitzva, Joseph Jospa told his wife that he felt that he was about to pass away. He told her that after their son's bar mitzva, Elijah would tell her that he wants to go out into the world. She should not discourage him from doing this, because he had been sent down to this world to fulfill a special mission. He told her that when her first husband had been killed, Joseph Jospa had received a Divine command to marry the widow, for a son of very high stature would be born to them who would have a special mission to fulfill for the Jewish people, to help them and uplift them. Elijah the Prophet had been studying with their son Elijah to prepare him for this mission. He was to be the first in a long chain of tzadikim leading up to the coming of Moshiach.
After concluding these instructions, Joseph Jospa passed away. A few weeks after Elijah's bar mitzva, he told his mother that he wanted to go out into the world. Having been prepared for this, she did not object. She gave him her blessing and he left. Forty years later, in the year 5350 (1590) he appeared in the city of Wurms, Germany and became known as a miracle worker and a healer. He also established a yeshiva there where he taught Kabbala, particularly the Zohar, in addition to the Talmud. He was the famous Rabbi Elijah Baal Shem.
Rabbi Elijah Baal Shem was indeed the first in the long chain leading up to the revelation of Moshiach. Rabbi Elijah Elijah was the first of four Baal Shem's. He was succeeded by his disciple, Rabbi Yoel Baal Shem, then by Rabbi Adam Baal Shem, who was succeeded by his disciple, Rabbi Yisrael, the famous Baal Shem Tov.