Weekly Story: Reb Leibel Karasik

by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon

Being this this Monday, chof-zayin Sivan is my mother, Cheyena bas HaRav HaChossid Reb Yeudah Leib Karasik’s yahrzeit, I decided to post some aspects about her father. Your feedback is greatly appreciated.

Reb Yehudah Leib was one of thirteen children, and almost all of the brothers were Tmimim. His oldest half-brother was Reb Yaakov Boruch, the mashgiach in Tomchei Tmimim. Reb Yaakov Boruch and two of his younger brothers were niftar (in their mid-twenties and early thirties)in the year after the Rebbe Rashab’s histalkus, and chassidim say they are part of the minyan, that the Rebbe took with him.

Reb Yehudah Leib talents were recognized early on, and the Frierdiker Rebbe knew that this is one individual, I can trust. So when his father, the Rebbe Rashab, was away from Lubavitch, which was often, he would leave the door of his father’s study open, and Yehudah Leib who was then a young bochur in the yeshiva, understood what was expected of him.

He would enter and take a manuscript that the Rebbe Rashab wrote, and take it with him to copy. Being that no one was allowed to know what he was doing, he would often take it to the cemetery, which was on the outskirts of the town, and sit there for a few hours and make his own transcript of the maamar. He would then return to the city and return the manuscript to its place, and give HaRav Yosef Yitzchok a copy.

However, once when the Rebbe Rashab returned, he noticed that it wasn’t exactly in the same place or position that he left it and asked his son if he made a copy. HaRav Yosef Yitzchok, couldn’t deny it, and answered in the affirmative. His father asked him for his copy and he handed over all of the maamorim.

When Yehudah Leib was informed of what happened, he told HaRav Yosef Yitzchok, not to be upset, all is not lost. He then brought to him, an additional set of transcripts of those maamorim, which he had made for himself. HaRav Yosef Yitzchok was extremely grateful. Seeing how perceptive he is, HaRav Yosef Yitzchok gave him additional responsibilities.

Shortly after the histalkus of the Rebbe Rashab, Yehudah Leib, who was then in his young twenties, entered the Rebbe’s house and the alte Rebbetzin, HaRabbonis Shterna Sarah, told him “Leibel, it’s time for you to get married” (although he was then only around 21). She then mentioned the name of a young lady.

He replied to the Rebbetzin, that if she proposes is, he definitely would consider it, and therefore he will ask her son the Rebbe for guidance.

When he entered the Rebbe’s room, he stated that the following name had been mentioned to him as a possible shidduch.

The Frierdiker Rebbe looked at him and inquired, “Who proposed it?”

“The alte Rebbetzin,” he replied (i.e., the Rebbe’s mother).

Hearing that, the Frierdiker Rebbe responded, “Es iz a gleiche zach, uber vos zugst doo vegen dem numin – It is an appropriate suggestion, but what do you say about this name?” The Rebbe then proceeded to mention the name of a second girl.

“If the Rebbe thinks she is appropriate for me, I will marry her,” Yehudah Leib replied.

“And what do you think about the following person?” inquired the Rebbe, mentioning a third name.

Once again Yehudah Leib replied that he trusted the Rebbe’s advice and would see to meet and marry her.
“Gut (good),” replied the Rebbe. “Now you should go to Nevel and marry one of the daughters of Shmerel the melamed.”

Zeideh agreed; however, he asked the Rebbe one question: “Why did the Rebbe say that the first name was good, and then go on to mention other names, only to turn them down afterwards?”

The Frierdiker Rebbe replied:

“Before it is decided in Heaven who a person will marry, all the possibilities are considered, until a decision is reached. The way it works is that a person cannot marry his bashert until he first thinks about the other names.

“When you mentioned the first name, and especially after you said that it was proposed by my mother, I realized that something was happening here. That name was one of the possibilities brought up in Heaven that was later negated. So I said it had merit, and then I mentioned the other names that were considered and also negated. At the end, I mentioned the one that was chosen for you. So go to Nevel, and may the marriage be in an auspicious hour!”

Shortly afterwards, Yehudah Leib married Aidella Albaskoi and then the Frierdiker Rebbe appointed him as Rov and mashpia in Nevel.

Nevel was a chassidishe Chabad community from the times of the Alter Rebbe, and many chassidim, including some prominent ones, lived there as well. Most of the chassidim accepted him; however, there were a few older ones who questioned: “How can a yungerman in his low twenties serve as the Rov and mashpia for elder chassidim who are old enough to be his father?” However, as a chossid he did as he was instructed.

This was when the Communists were in control, and everyone needed a source of income. Being a Rov was illegal and couldn’t bring in any money. So Leibel dealt in laces for shoes etc., and Boruch Hashem one can say that he was matzliach, comparatively speaking.

In the summer of 5681 (1921), after the Frierdiker Rebbe recovered from the typhus, he set out to send mashpiim to all the cities and encourage the chassidim to learn and review maamorei Chassidus. Reb Yehudah Leib was the first one that he sent. He was sent to Moscow. Seeing the positive results of his visit, the Frierdiker Rebbe sent mashpiim to numerous towns and cities.

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim, he can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com

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