How to Save a Life
Our next stop is R' Yeruchom's grave. R' Katzman tells us something about the effect "the Mashgiach," as his talmidim call him to this day, had even after his death.
"Many years after the War I met R' Yaakov Finkelstein in America. (He came to the yeshiva from Poland -- chassidic territory.) After we greeted each other R' Yaakov said to me with strong emotion, `I want to tell you something! By your merit my life was saved. I don't suppose you know it yourself, but it's a fact.'
"It turned out that he was talking about an article I had published in Sivan of 5699 (1939), on the Mashgiach's yahrtzeit. I wrote about how I remembered R' Yeruchom, the great mechanech, and somehow a copy of this article made its way into R' Yaakov's hands. It seems he was so impressed by the figure of the Mashgiach and the picture I drew of Yeshivas Mir and its ways of building ruchniyus that he decided, `I want to learn there.' This is what motivated him to come to the yeshiva, although I never knew it. In fact, he left Poland the same day with just a single suitcase.
"If the article came out in Sivan 5699 (1939), you can understand that R' Yaakov got to learn in Mir only for a month or so. Then the war broke out and the yeshiva set off on its wanderings -- on the way to survival. `So,' claimed R' Yaakov to me, `it was your article that brought me to the Mir, and that is why I am alive'."
R' Leib agrees that many boys came to Mir simply to be near the Mashgiach. After all, he points out, a good many of them were already on high levels of lomdus and had learned from the greatest roshei yeshivos. Some of the older bochurim were fit to give shiur themselves. But all of them, from youngest to oldest, clung tightly to R' Yeruchom. "People used to say then that what R' Chaim Brisker was in lomdus, R' Yeruchom was in mussar."