When Elya was nine years old, his parents emigrated from Poland to the U.S. In an amazing demonstration of inner strength, the young boy, recognizing the meager opportunities for Torah learning and spiritual development in the U.S., refused to leave Europe. Instead, although undergoing extreme hardship, he entered a yeshiva in Lomza, after which he became a student of the renowned Rabbi Simcha Zissel in the Kelm Talmud Torah, where his musar approach was developed and his gentle but forceful personality emerged.
He founded a yeshiva in Kelm. In 1926, he became the mashgiach (spiritual guide) of the Etz Chaim Yeshiva in London and in 1950 he emigrated to Israel and served as mashgiach of Yeshiva Keneset Chizkiyyahu in Kefar Chasidim until his death. Reb Elya was an eloquent and powerful speaker and he had the ability to touch and inspire a huge crowd. He emphasized the importance of developing and improving character and even in his nineties, never ceased trying to improve his own midos (character traits) and sensitivity to others.
When asked why he was worthy of such longevity, he replied, “From the time I became aware, I never expressed anger at anyone no matter what the provocation.”
He once summarized his approach to life best when he said, “Good midos and sensitivity in one’s relations with others are the rungs of the ladder through which one may elevate himself in his relationship and service to his Creator.”
He disseminated Torah and musar for 70 years and some of his thoughts are collected in the two volume Lev Eliyahu.