At the age of fourteen the BeShT joined a group of Nistarim - hidden mystics, the followers of Rabbi Adam Baal Shem of Ropshitz. Their mission was to wander from town to town, speaking with Rabbis, scholars, poor workers and wealthy businessmen, encouraging and giving hope where before there was only pessimism.
Four years later, at the BeShT’s suggestion, the Nistarim assumed responsibility for the religious education of these communities. They organized suitable schools and provided pious, qualified teachers for them, paying special attention to the needs of the poor.
After the death of Rabbi Adam Baal Shem, the Baal Shem Tov was elected to serve as the leader of the Nistarim. Upon his election, the BeShT directed the establishment of religious schools (Chadorim) for the young and advance schools of Talmudic studies (yeshivos) for the older boys in hundreds of Jewish communities.
With the religious educational apparatus thus firmly established, the way was clear for serving G‑d and fulfilling the commandment of the love for your fellow Jew (Ahavas Yisroel). As a second objective, the Nistarim focused their attention on raising the masses from the morass of ignorance to the heights of Torah.
During this period in his life the BeShT came into possession of a number of manuscripts which had belonged to Rabbi Adam Baal Shem. These manuscripts revealed many Kabalistic secrets and instructions which he studied avidly.
For a time, the BeShT settled in Brody, where he married the sister of a renowned scholar, Rabbi Abraham Gershon Kutover. A son, Rabbi Zvi, and a daughter, Adel, were born to the BeShT and his wife.
For the ten years from 5484 (1724) the BeShT led a secluded life dedicating himself to intensive study of the Torah. It is recorded that during this period the Baal Shem Tov received instruction from Achiya of Shilo, the ancient prophet of King David’s time, who appeared regularly to the BeShT and taught him the secrets of the Torah.