There was no formulaic response to the questions that came to him. He was, at once, wise and fair. When, years ago, the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School took the extraordinary step of ensuring the survival of the Jewish Foundation School of Staten Island, Rav Elya’s guidance was critical as we traversed difficult issues.
A man of total integrity, I doubt he ever felt fully comfortable in the organizational world, even in situations where he was vested with authority. Organizations require a degree of loyalty that can compromise one’s commitment to integrity. He struggled with this dualism for years and the struggle constituted a painful chapter that cannot readily be discussed, at least not yet. When he decided to leave organizational life, many in his circle followed his example, not because he instructed them to do so but because they believed that it was the right thing to do.
In his deeply moving hesped more than twenty-five years ago for Rabbi Shneuer Kotler in Lakewood, Rav Elya cried out, “You can now go to your father and say, ‘I have fulfilled your mission, I have fulfilled your mission.’ ”
So, too, Rav Elya can now go to the great rosh yeshiva and say, “I have fulfilled your mission, I have fulfilled your mission.”