Cloaked in mourning thousands were on hand Monday night to lay to rest HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu zt"l, a talmid chochom and the author of numerous books, who served as a dayan and a marbitz Torah for decades. He passed away in Jerusalem on Monday at the age of 81. The levaya, led by rabbonim and dayonim, set out from his beis medrash in Jerusalem's Kiryat Moshe neighborhood.
Mordechai Eliyahu was born in Jerusalem's Old City on 21 Adar 5689 (1929) to HaRav Salaman and his mother Mazal, who was from a distinguished Baghdad rabbinical family. His father, who served as a rov and marbitz Torah, moved to Eretz Hakodesh at the behest of the Ben Ish Chai zy"o.
Mordechai was 11 when his father passed away, but he overcame the tragedy through the extraordinary efforts of his mother — the sister of HaRav Yehuda Tzedaka and the granddaughter of the Ben Ish Chai's sister — to foster his development in Torah and yir'oh.
While learning at Yeshivat Porat Yosef he was held in high regard by the Rosh Yeshiva HaRav Ezra Attia and by his fellow students.
HaRav Eliyahu was known for his objections to legislation enacted by the state in its constant efforts to constrict lomdei Torah and spoke out regularly, trying to convey a sense of the sublimity of Torah learning and Torah observance.
As a young man he was on close terms with HaRav Mordechai Sharabi and the Baba Sali, HaRav Yisrael Abuchatzeira.
Shortly after receiving semichoh in early 5720 (1950), he was appointed to the Beersheba Rabbinical Beis Din, becoming the youngest dayan in Eretz Yisroel. Four years later he was transferred to the Jerusalem Beis Din and after another three years was named to the Rabbinate's Beis Din Godol. In 5743 (1983) he was selected to serve as the Chief Rabbi of Israel, a post he held for 10 years.
After leaving the Chief Rabbinate he headed Darkei Horo'oh Lerabbonim, a Jerusalem kollel set up to train dayonim and morei horo'oh.
He regularly gave shiurim and gained renown for the Torah and halacha articles he published. He wrote numerous books, including works based on rulings followed by Iraqi Jews, particularly the rulings of the Ben Ish Chai.
Following a heart attack two years ago, HaRav Eliyahu was hospitalized at Shaarei Tzedek Medical Center, where he eventually underwent bypass surgery. A few days later he suffered a stroke, and after a failed angioplasty, had to undergo open-heart surgery, which left him in critical condition.
After a few months of recovery he was discharged, gradually resuming his former routine, but on Monday HaRav Mordechai Eliyahu zt"l returned his soul to his Maker. He was buried at Har Hamenuchos Cemetery.