Thousands of Yeshivas Itri alumni joined gedolei Yisroel, roshei yeshivos, marbitzei Torah, rabbonim and dayonim in laying to rest HaRav Mordechai Elefant zt"l, founder and rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Itri and author of Zahav Mordechai, who passed away on Motzei Shabbos Parshas Vayeiroh at Shaarei Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem at the age of 79. A talmid of HaRav Aryeh Leib Malin and HaRav Yitzchok Zev Soloveitchik (the Brisker Rov), he spent decades overseeing and fostering the progress of his numerous students over the years, helping many grow into gedolei Torah.
Mordechai Elefant was born on 18 Sivan 5690 (1930) to Rav Meir in the US. He studied at Yeshivas Torah Vodaas, later transferring to Lakewood Yeshiva, where he studied under HaRav Aharon Kotler zt"l.
After marrying the daughter of HaRav Nochum Dovid Herman, the son of HaRav Yaakov Yosef Herman (the subject of All for the Boss), he applied himself to his Torah learning with even greater fervor at Kollel Beis HaTalmud in Brooklyn. During this period he formed a very tight bond with HaRav Malin, who had studied in the Mir Yeshiva and under the leading Torah figures of prewar Europe.
In 5718 (1958) he moved to Eretz Hakodesh, settling briefly in Bnei Brak, where he formed close relationships with HaRav Yechezkel Lewenstein and HaRav Shach. Later he moved to Jerusalem, where he spent much time at the home of the Brisker Rov zt"l.
In Elul 5728 he founded Yeshivas Itri with 60 students, which was considered a very bold enterprise. He brought in gedolei Torah to serve as ramim and regularly gave shiurim, which were known for their acuity and depth.
At first the yeshiva was located in East Jerusalem and later moved to its campus in the Beit Tzefafa neighborhood, where avreichim were housed in adjacent apartments. This is an area of Israeli Arabs at the south of Jerusalem. At one time the yeshiva included a yeshiva gedoloh, a yeshiva ketanoh, a kollel and a talmud Torah, as well as a branch in the US together with HaRav Zelig Epstein and another branch in Hadera.
As rosh yeshiva HaRav Elefant was known for his perseverance and drive in learning. He would spend hour after hour in the beis medrash, and often his devoted wife would bring him meals there.
His students published a series of books called Zahav Mordechai, which recorded his shiurim on Chumash over the years.
In recent years he suffered from poor health, but continued delivering shiurim periodically. A few months ago his condition took a turn for the worse and he spent the last two months of his life hospitalized at Shaarei Tzedek.
The first of the hespeidim at the yeshiva in Beit Tzefafa was given by HaRav Shmuel Auerbach, who had served as a ram and a rosh yeshiva during the yeshiva's early years. He was then eulogized by HaRav Shlomo Fisher, a rosh yeshiva at Yeshivas Itri, HaRav Boruch Dov Povarsky, one of the roshei yeshiva of Yeshivas Ponovezh, HaRav Michel Zilber, who had also served as a ram at Yeshivas Itri, HaRav Yitzchok Ezrachi, one of the roshei yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir, HaRav Dovid Eliach, who served as mashgiach at Yeshivas Itri and currently serves at Yeshivas Nachalas Dovid, HaRav Zev Getzil, the current mashgiach, his talmid HaRav Binyomin Birnbaum, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Chochmas Shlomo in Bnei Brak, and his talmid HaRav Chaim Pas, the son-in-law of HaRav Meir Tzvi Bergman. HaRav Yeshayohu Portnoy, a ram at Yeshivas Kol Torah, offered parting words in the name of the family.
The levaya proceeded to the rabbinical section of Har HaMenuchos Cemetery. HaRav Mordechai Elefant is survived by his wife Rebbetzin Esther, family members and thousands of talmidim who were like sons to him and who feel indebted to him for the ruchniyus he imparted in them.