At the very beginning of the story, Elie was the only son of Jewish parents. As such, tradition demanded that he receive an education, both secular and religious. "my place was in the house of study" As he became an adult, the expectation was that he would either assume a position of responsibility in his father's business, eventually taking it over, or perhaps he would become a rabbi.
Once the community was forced to face the reality of the threat to their lifestyle being imposed as the ghetto was created and increasing restrictions were imposed, expectations for everyone shifted. For as long as possible, Elie continued to study, although "in Ezra Malik's garden" instead of in a school or synagogue.
Once Elie's father received word of the impending deportation of the Jews of Sighet, Elie's role changed again. He became a messenger, helping his father notify the others of the need to prepare for the changes that were coming upon them all. From that moment on, the expectation was that he would do whatever was necessary to survive.