Having studied secular subjects before coming to Lubavitch, R. Yaakov Boruch Karasik was not taken by Chassidus. But when he heard the Rebbe Rashab speak about its detrimental effect on G-dly awareness, he became one of Lubavitch’s greatest ovdim.
R. Yaakov Boruch Karasik was born Lapitch, Belarus (c. 5645). An early talmid of Tomchei Temimim in Lubavitch, he was very close to the mashpia R. Groinem, and in 5672 he was appointed to serve as a mashgiach for nigleh in Lubavitch. He was considered primarily a baal nigleh, but he was also an oved who davened at length and fasted regularly. He tragically passed away young in 5681, not long after the histalkus of the Rebbe Rashab.
Having studied secular subjects before coming to Lubavitch, Yaakov Boruch and his friend, Avrohom Nikolayever, were originally not taken by avoda. Once, the Rebbe Rashab spoke in a maamar about the damage caused by secular studies that they make things of the world significant (a ‘metzius’), and eventually to feel himself and forget Hashem. This had an impact on them that became great ovdim.
After lchaim, R. Yaakov Boruch would often say that he “would give away his entire olam hazeh to know that he is inscribed in the ‘Rebbe’s Book’” (as chassidim had a tradition that the Rebbeim had a book listing their chassidim).
His younger brother, R. Leizer Karasik, related:
It was around the year 5766, and my brother, Yaakov Boruch, came home for a visit, from Lubavitch to our hometown of Lapitch. He was 21 years old and due for army draft.
In the chassidishe shtiebel where we davened, davening on Shabbos began at 8:30 am, and lasted for about two hours. Everyone had completed Shachris and were preparing to go home, but Yaakov Boruch was still immersed in his davening. I thought to wait for him, but my father told me not to, though I couldn’t understand why not. We went home and completed our seuda, but Yaakov Boruch had still not arrived.
I left the house to go play with my friends, when I suddenly heard a big commotion. Everyone was rushing to the shul to see an unusual spectacle: Yaakov Boruch was still davening! Everyone was astounded: How can someone daven so long, until late in the afternoon?! It isn’t Yom Kippur, and besides, he isn’t holding a machzor?!
When they realized that he is so engrossed in his davening that he is unaware of his surroundings, their shock only increased. “He must have lost his mind,” they whispered to each other.
I was devastated. I ran home and told my parents what people were saying, and I began to cry. My parents, however, calmed me. “Don’t mind these simple people,” they said, “they don’t understand anything. Your brother is a great person, and as you get older, you will get to know him.”
All day, I remained at home and refused to leave out of embarrassment of my friends. Towards evening, Yaakov Boruch finally came home accompanied by a group of children, trailing behind him like they followed a lunatic.
Yaakov Boruch, however, paid no heed to them, and continued on his path. And, indeed, it wasn’t long before all the townsmen came to recognize his greatness and began to treat him with the utmost respect.
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