Always on Duty
"The Mashgiach went on building us up and strengthening us even after he died. I remember in Shanghai when we trembled with fear amidst the terrible bombings, R' Yechezkel zt'l told us one morning that R' Yeruchom had spoken to him the previous night in his dream. `He said that we would have great difficulties, but we would come out of them safely,' R' Yechezkel reported.
"He used to tell us that the Mashgiach was definitely speaking up for us in Shomayim, `He's looking out (mashgiach) for us,' was the way he often put it. He explained that R' Yeruchom wasn't just guarding us; the Mashgiach couldn't stop being the Mashgiach no matter what the circumstances. He was still full of concern for the yeshiva's welfare, and kept busy constantly davening for us in Shomayim, that we should not be harmed either physically or spiritually.
"And the truth is that in those days we actually saw Hashem's hand and His hashgocho every step of the way. We were learning then in an old building in the Hongkyo industrial district of Shanghai, an abandoned factory that was practically a ruin. It was enough to look at it to convince you not to go in. The whole building actually leaned to one side, and it looked as if it was about to fall over, any moment. Not to mention that the Americans were bombing the whole industrial district so as to put the arms factories out of action. I remember that the heaviest bombings used to knock down even buildings that hadn't been hit -- the shock wave alone was enough. These were mostly poor people's homes, and they collapsed like a house of cards. The streets were strewn with corpses. But with Hashem's help, not one of the yeshivaleit was hurt.
"Even in quiet times we felt afraid to walk into the yeshiva, and the fear was much more during bombings. If we even heard the sound of the bomber planes approaching, the whole yeshiva would rush out of the building. Only R' Yechezkel would stay and learn with R' Moshe Berenstein zt'l (who just recently passed away). He had no doubts that the safest place of all was a place of Torah study.
"Every bombing run weakened the building's foundations more, until we were afraid to go on there. We all got together, everyone gave ten dollars, and with the three thousand dollars that gave us we bought another building in better condition. Two weeks after we moved, the old building fell down -- not during a bombing run, just out of dilapidation! One of the talmidim still has a photograph of the ruins."