A crowd of thousands, including many prominent roshei
yeshivos, attended the levaya of HaRav Eliyohu
Yourkansky zt"l, one of the roshei yeshiva of Yeshivas
Mir in the US and one of the last survivors of the previous
generation of Torah giants, who was summoned to Yeshiva
Shel Maaloh at the age of 98.
Eliyohu Yourkansky was born to R' Avrohom of Minsk and raised
in a home of Torah, yir'oh and admiration for
gedolei Yisroel. R' Avrohom cleaved to the Chazon Ish,
the Brisker Rov and other gedolim who lived in his
At the age of 11 he went with his older brother to study at
the yeshiva of HaRav Elchonon Wassermann Hy"d after
Bolsheviks took over Minsk and prevented Torah study. His
mother gave all of her available funds to a goy who was
willing to smuggle them from Russia to Poland.
After an adventurous two-day border crossing, the young boys
had to traverse a bridge where soldiers were standing guard.
They hesitated, afraid of getting sent back to Russia if they
were caught since they had no form of identification.
Suddenly a woman who sold fresh bagels to the soldiers every
morning spotted them. She gave each of the boys a basket to
carry and the soldiers were sure they were non-Jewish boys
helping the woman carry her goods.
Through chasdei Hashem they eventually arrived at
Yeshivas Baranovitch. For the next three years they slept on
benches, rather than beds. Eliyohu celebrated his bar mitzvah
at the yeshiva without any family, except for his brother. He
devoted every moment of his time to Torah study, clinging to
HaRav Wassermann, HaRav Shlomo Heiman, HaRav Leib of Ivia,
HaRav Dovid Hakohen Rappaport the author of Tzemach
Dovid, and the Mashgiach HaRav Yisroel Yaakov Lubchansky.
He formed an especially close bond with the Mashgiach, who
would invite him to eat and sleep in his home.
After nine years of intensive study he decided to transfer to
Yeshivas Mir, arriving in 5689 (1929). He became a talmid
muvhok of HaRav Yeruchom, who grew very fond of R'
Eliyohu and arranged for him to study with talmidim
from Germany and the US to pass on the Torah and
yir'oh he had acquired from his rabbonim.
When army recruiters threatened to enlist him, R' Eliyohu
began to starve himself. An army doctor who examined him
determined he could not be inducted. Due to his weak
condition HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzensky zt"l sent him
away for a rest and covered his medical expenses.
R' Eliyohu remained with the yeshiva during its miraculous
period of exile, including several years in Shanghai.
In 5709 (1949) he arrived in the US with the rest of the
yeshiva and immediately got engaged. After the wedding HaRav
Avrohom Kalmanovitz asked him to deliver daily shiurim
at Yeshivas Mir in the US. He also gave a shiur every
evening for twelve years at Yeshivas Torah Vodaas.
HaRav Yourkansky spent 53 years teaching Torah and giving
talks at Yeshivas Mir. Serving as a model of yiras
Shomayim, elevated middos and hasmodoh he
passed on the teachings he had received from gedolei
Yisroel to thousands of talmidim.
Years ago, after sitting Shiva for his daughter Rochel
Leah Pearlstein, he told her sons to return to their Torah
studies and he did the same. Opening the gemora he
revealed no further sign of the pain he felt. When his
daughter-in-law Devorah Yourkansky passed away, he offered
his son and grandchildren encouragement, saying all of
HaKodosh Boruch Hu's deeds are for the best and the
most important thing is to return to one's Torah learning
During the past few years his heart was weak and as he walked
along slowly he would murmur Tehillim. He did not stop
cleaving to HaKodosh Boruch Hu for even a moment. He
had to spend the last month of his life hospitalized in
Lakewood, where he returned his pure soul to his Maker on
Monday 26 Cheshvan (November 28) in the morning. As the
mittoh set out from Lakewood, thousands of
bochurim and avreichim were on hand.
In the heichal of Yeshivas Mir in New York the
deceased was eulogized by HaRav Shmuel Birnbaum, rosh yeshiva
of Yeshivas Mir, HaRav Avrohom Yaakov Nilkelbaum, HaRav Osher
Kalmanovitz, HaRav Herschel Zolti, HaRav Azriel Erlanger,
HaRav Aryeh Malkiel Kotler, HaRav Yeruchom Olshin, HaRav
Eliezer Ginsburg and HaRav Moshe Handelsman, his sons, HaRav
Avrohom, HaRav Reuven, HaRav Azriel, HaRav Chaim Shaul, and
his sons-in-law, HaRav Tzvi Lubel and HaRav Shmuel
The aron was then transported to Eretz Hakodesh
and the levaya resumed at Yeshivas Mir in
Jerusalem, where hespeidim were delivered by HaRav Don
Segal, HaRav Aryeh Finkel and HaRav Yaakov Eliezer
HaRav Eliyohu Yourkansky zt"l is survived by four sons
and one daughter, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and
thousands of talmidim lamenting the loss of their much