NAFLAH ATERES ROSHEINU: Maran Hagaon Harav Elya Svei zt”l

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rav-elya-svei1[Updated below.] It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Maran Hagaon Harav Elya Svei zt”l, the Philadelphia Rosh Yeshiva, who until he became ill several years ago had led Klal Yisroel in the United States for decades. Known for his brilliance in Torah, Rav Elya led numerous battles to protect our treasured mesorah and to protest those who wished to compromise our way of life and adherence to Torah living. His acumen and genius was legendary. A true manhig and gadol in his time, Rav Elya was the rosh hamedabrim in the Torah world for years, in addition to being a venerated rosh yeshiva whose shiurim were famous for their clarity and depth.

Rav Elya, one of the primary talmidim of Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l, in the mid-1950s joined ybl”c Maran Harav Shmuel Kamenetsky shlit”a in leading the Philadelphia Yeshiva, which had been founded in 1953. Rav Elya was also a member of the Moeztes Gedolei HaTorah of Agudas Yisroel of America.

rav-elya-svei-21Rav Elya leaves behind his rebbetzin, a daughter of Rav Avrohom Kalmanowitz zt”l, the founding rosh yeshiva of the Mirrer Yeshiva, and a family of bnei Torah and marbitzei Torah and hundreds upon hundreds of grieving talmidim.

His children are Rev Yehuda Svei, R”M in the Philadelphia Yeshiva; Mrs. Lakee Gorelick, wife of Rav Isser Gorelick of South Fallsburg; Mrs. Sori Dick, wife of Rav Mottel Dick, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Heichal Hatorah in Staten Island; Mrs. Nechama Lipschuzt, wife of Rav Yosef Lipschutz, R”M in Yeshiva Nachlas Tzvi in Toronto; Reb Malkiel Svei of Lakewood; Rav Meir Simcha Svei of Lakewood; Rav Avrohom Svei, Rav Aharon Shlomo Svei and Rav Chaim Yosef Svei.

Update: The levaya is scheduled to take place at 12:15 p.m. at the Philadelphia Yeshiva, located at 6063 Drexel Road in Philadelphia.  The levaya will continue at John F. Kennedy Airport at approximately 4:30 p.m. and the aron will then be flown to Eretz Yisroel for kevurah. At the present time, it does not appear that there will be any hespeidim at the airport.

{Dovid Bernstein, Elisha Ferber-Matzav.com Newscenter}

85 COMMENTS

  1. We just lost one of the greatest leaders our people saw in the last 40 years. we will never forget his inspiring leadership and his gevurah in the face of fierce opposition.

    May the rosh yeshiva be a meilitz yosher for all of us.

  2. Even though it is rosh chodesh I think there should be hespeidim
    how can we bid goodbye to rav elya without divrei hesped? there’s so much to say. his torah, his avodah, his chochmah.
    when rav elya spoke, everyone else listened. no one said it better than rav elya. no one saw it clearer than rav elya.
    Al zeh onu bochim.

  3. BD”H!! Just a minor point. Rav Elya, ztl, did not open Philly. R’ Dov Schwartzmann was there before, and Reb Elya arrived a few years later.

  4. In his hesped in BMG on Rav Shach, Rav Elya said:

    “The recent events of September 11th should motivate us to reflection. A large group of Arab terrorists succeeded in getting on many different planes and carrying out their dastardly acts. They were able to gain control of the planes and maneuver them with exactitude, resulting in direct hits which destroyed the very symbol of America’s financial prosperity, as well as its military pride which the Pentagon represented. It is untenable for any thinking person to attribute such astonishing feats to the dubious skill of the perpetrators-clearly the Hand of Hashem actively assisted the hijackers, as they were merely a tool for a more Divine message. We live in a time of such great hester panim-yet we have witnessed an episode of astonishing revelation of Hashem’s guiding role in history. This is nothing less than the ikvesa d’meshicha-the ushering in of the era of the Moshiach. The world is feverishly preoccupied with its fear of jetliners and anthrax, and with its assessments of the efficacy of American military endeavors against Osama bin Laden and his ilk. Yet bnei Torah must not get caught up in this two-dimensional view of current events. We should analyze, rather, what it is that Hashem demands of us, much as the Ponovezer Rosh Yeshiva was wont to do.”

  5. The Rosh Yeshiva was a brother in law of Rav Shmuel Berenbaum the mirrer rosh yeshiva who was also married to a daughter of rav avrohom kalmanowitz

  6. R’ Svei zt”l was an amazing person.
    I remember one particular story about him: my grandfather zt”l had a hard life. He went through Auschwitz and lost his family as a young man. When he came to the US, he had to work hard to support his family. He once commented to me that one of his biggest regrets was that he never really learned how to learn Gemara properly – as a boy he already had to help support his family, as his father was taken away by the Nazis very early, and later he had to support his family in the US. However, the emunah and bitachon he had was amazing.
    One summer, he and my grandmother were given a small vacation by one of their children (my aunt and uncle). It was to a small bungalow somewhere in the mountains which they owned, I believe. It turned out that R’ Svei zt”l was staying there for a few days also, in a neighboring bungalow.
    My grandfather didn’t know who R’ Svei was. He simply saw a Jew there, sitting outside with a sefer. He went over, said Shalom Aleichem, and introduced himself. R’ Svei ended up sitting an talking with my grandfather for hours – about life in Europe, the difficulties when he came to the US, his experience during the war, and other things.
    The next day, my grandfather walked outside, and R’ Svei approached him. He wanted to talk with him again! Every day of his trip, R’ Svei zt”l would sit and speak with my grandfather.
    My aunt and uncle came for the last day or two my grandfather was there, and saw him speaking to R’ Svei. My uncle knew who he was, and was a but surprised. He knew R’ Svei spent his time learning, and didn’t know that after the first day, he had approached my grandfather. When my grandfather left for a few minutes, my uncle asked, “Is the Rosh yeshiva ok speaking to my father in law? Is it disturbing the Rosh Yeshiva’s learning?” R’ Svei replied, “To speak with such a person, who went through so much, and maintained such a level of emunah and bitachon is such an amazing experience. I myself can take so much mussar from it, I don’t want to pass it up!”
    After my grandparents left, my uncle asked my grandfather if he knew who his new friend was. My grandfather replied, “He told me his name is Elya Svei. He is a very nice, ehrliche Jew, and I’m happy I met him.” My uncle told him exactly who R’ Elya was, and my grandfather said, “Good. I’m glad that he is a Rosh Yeshiva. After speaking with him, it’s clear to see how much he cares for B’nei Yisrael, and I’m sure he does an excellent job teaching people how to be proper Jews.”

  7. Rav Elya also said about Rav Shach:

    “Another area in which Rav Shach took the sole initiative and responsibility was in the less than popular task of protesting Messianic proclivities…Rav Shach assumed the responsibility of decrying this perversion. Rav Shach started to fight this battle alone. He illuminated the truth so that others could also see the posed threat and follow his lead.”

    I might add that Rav Elya tok the lead in numerous, numerous instances, fighting those people who wanted to modernize Yiddishkeit and adapt it to the current times.

  8. the last manhig in the US that represented only the Bnei Torah of the Yahadus Ha’Chariedis! uzal gavra demistafneh minay!

  9. I am a talmid of the Rosh Yeshiva ZTL and although I was never zoche to be in shiur, I was zoche to drive him a few times to New York for chasunas. In the car, he learn R’Yeruchem’s Daas Torah.
    His shmuzzen were fire! But my favourite memory is mussar seder. Just sitting and listening to the “niggun” was awe-inspiring.
    I miss the Rosh Yeshiva already and I have not seen him in over 10 years.
    Yehi Zichro Boruch.

  10. Many years ago Reb Yaakov, OB”M told a Rosh Hayeshiva “build up a relationship with Reb Elya…Err vet zein der Manhig….

    I tried very hard with Reb Elya OB”M to set up a Board of Rabonim to deal with the deterioating status of Kashrus in the USA.

    We also tried in arranging and setting up that everyone in Lakewood should shortly after their chasunah go to an out of town kolel for 3-4 years. I went to Rav Shach, OB”M re: this issue, but sadly for various reasons it was not able to be implemented, as Rav Shach said “verr vet hubben dem shtempel?”

  11. We as talmidim can only feel as if we just lost a Father! Rav Elya ztl taught us how to be a Ben Torah in the Bais Medrash and even when we go out to the world of business.Rav Elya ztl once said in a shmooz that just like a soldier wouldn’t go out without his uniform no matter what the weather or place permits so to we have to dress and act as the soldiers of the Rebon es Shel Olom no matter where we are! As i sit in my office with tears in my eyes its hard to type further!

  12. I work in Manhattan and would very much want to go to JFK. I would be very appreciative if someone could post later on today, what time the Aron actually ends up leaving Philly. This way those of us who unfortunately cannot attend the actual levaya in Philly due to work obligations wil be able to partake in the final kibbud to the gadol byisroel

  13. It is interesting that R’Mendel ZT’L, R Shimon ZT”L and the Rosh Yeshiva ZT”L were all niftar before Pesach.

    R’ Chaim Ozer YBLCHTA once told us of R’Elya’s gadlus. The bochurim were complaining that with halacha seder, 15 minutes was not enough time to eat breakfast.
    R’Elya suggested that the kitchen workers toast bread in advance so that when the bochurim come in, the toast will be ready.
    R’ Chaim Ozer said:”Such gadlus! He doesn’t chap that cold toast is not gishmak!

  14. Harav Elya, ZT”L, was a true fighter for every Ben Torah, regardless if it was his Talmid. Klal Yisroel has lost a leader.

  15. I believe that one of Rav Elya’s sons is married to a daughter of Rav Yitzchok Feigelstock, the rosh yeshiva in Long Beach. It’s obviously not Rav Yudi who is married to a Bakst, Rav leib’s daughter.

    who are his other mechutanim?

  16. The live feed here on matzav is excellent.
    if it doesn;’t play then refresh your page or open up up a new browser screen. that’s what I did and it is working very well.
    thank you

  17. The live feed is on the main page of Matzav.com. It begins playing several seconds after you open the page.

    Elisha Ferber, Matzav.com

  18. Yasher koach Matzav. the audio hookup is excellent.
    Can anyone tell us who was maspid so far besides for Rav Chaim Epstein and Rav Malkiel Kotler?

  19. To get to JFK, take the Van Wyck Expressway south to Exit B and then bear right to 130th Place and make a left on East Hanger Road and the Building 208 will be on the right at the end.

  20. rav yosef lipschutz is a son of rav yacov lipschutz, rov in monsey and father of rabbi pinchos lipschutz of the yated ne’eman, who’s a talmid of rav elya.

  21. rav yudi IS rav bakst son in law. rav elya sons in law are rav isser garelick, rav mottel dick and rav yosseph lipshutz

  22. on rosh chodesh i remember that Maran Harav Chaim Stein Shlita said that it was mutar to be masped a talmid chachom this was by the levaya of Harav Dovid Barkan ZTZL

  23. Although Hespedim are prohibited on Rosh Chodesh, for an Adam Chashuv and especially one of the Gedolei HaDor it is Muttar.

    The passing of a great man is a Kapara for the generation. Let’s take advantage of our new purity of soul and do what we can to help bring Mashiach!

    May Rav Elya Zatzal be a Meilitz Yosher for all of Klal Yisroel.

  24. In todays times, where we are seemingly less machsiv what our rabonim and gedoilei roshei hayishiva are telling us. On this occasion of the passing of one of our leaders I feel it is a time for us to reflect and perhaps be “re-michazaik” ourselves in our emunas chachomim, even when our “daas” doesn’t feel like it is the right thing (for what ever reason). Let us daven that the rosh hayeshiva will be a mailitz yoisher for us and all of klal yisroel.

  25. Rav Avrohom Svei is a R”M in Yeshivas Ner Yaakov in Yerushalayim. Rav Pinchos Lipschutz is a talmid and a nephew. He is married to Rav Dovid Svei’s daughter.

  26. Just a few minutes in R’ Elya’s prescence and you knew you were with a Godol B’Torah. Exactly 10 yrs, R’ Elya was mesader Kiddushin at our Chasuna, being a close friend of my Kallah’s family. I came from overseas, with many family and friends unable to come. R’ Elya ‘chapped’the matsav and stayed a long time at the chasna despite the fact that he would still have over 2hr drive back to Philly. Another memory of the night was that immidiately after the chuppa, R’ Elya made a point of wishing my mother (ylch’t), a mazel-tov. Its the little moments of menshlichkeit in life that macht for a Godol!!

  27. i was never a talmed of the philly yeshiva but the mere fact that i listend to as many tapes as possible which rav elya spoke on and learned from any vort or word which was said by Rav Elya or beshem Rav elya for this reasone i consider myself a talmid. it is hear breaking to hear that the Iluy of America quoted beshem the Brisker Rav was niftar Rav Elya should be a maletz yosher for gantz klall yisroel and to be machaper for our averos.

  28. rav elya was of closest friends & mechetanum with maran harav yitzchok feigelstock shlita rosh hayeshiva of longbeach yeshiva for over 50 years since the times of rav ahron

  29. Rav Elya was first and foremost an ish emes. What he thought he said; what he said he thought. Bedidi havey uvda. I’m a ba’alabos. I worked hard to establish a yeshiva in a small town, but we had difficulty with a maggid shi’ur who was less than honest. He was a great talmid chochom, but was not careful with the Yeshiva’s funds and about other matters. The ba’alabatim — not particularly wealthy –raised and offered him $25,000 to leave the Yeshiva peacefully, which he accepted. A few days later, he said let’s go to a din Torah (even though he had acepted the check). We agreed and suggested that each side pick an odom godol, who would then pick a third (zavlo ve-zavlo). We suggested to the maggid shi’ur that he pick a godol first. He chose Rav Elya, with whom he had learned in Lakewood. We said if you select Rav Elya there is no need for zavlo vezavlo, we also choose Rav Elya. Whatever he decides we will follow. So the maggid shiur and I appeared in Philadelphia before Rav Elya for the din Torah. Each of us testified in the presence of the other (so that the other could respond), and each of us met with Rav Elya separately. Then we were called in for the pesak. Rav Elya fired the maggid shi’ur (his friend) on the spot, ordered him to return the $25,000 to the yeshiva, and gave him a month or so to leave town, and ordered him to enter a different field of work and never be a maggid shiur again. To this he added a frightening musar shmuess that shook the walls of the room we were in. I will never forget that moment and I’m certain the maggid shiur never forgot that moment. Rav Elya lost a friend and saved yiddishkeit. That was Rav Elya. Ein temuraso!

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