When the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh, Rabbi Chaim ibn Attar, was nearing the end of his life, his wife cried to him that she would have no means of supporting herself. The Ohr Hachaim set her mind at ease, reassuring her that she would always have enough money to live on. “After I depart from this world,” he said, “a man will come here from Constantinople in the hope of buying my tefillin. He will offer you a vast sum of money. Accept his offer, but warn him that he must never talk while wearing the precious tefillin.”
The Ohr Hachaim’s wife calmed down and promised to do as she was instructed. In the year 5503 (1773), the Ohr Hachaim’s neshamah left this world, and he was buried on Har Hazeisim. One day a short while later, a stranger approached the Ohr Hachaim’s wife. “I have traveled to the Holy Land from Turkey in the hope of purchasing your husband’s holy tefillin,” he said. “I am willing to pay a huge amount of money.”
The Ohr Hachaim’s wife immediately agreed to the deal, but on one condition. “Just remember,” she cautioned him as she handed the tefillin over, “you must refrain from talking while wearing them.” The man agreed and eagerly took the tefillin. He then traveled back home, clutching the tefillin bag close to his heart the entire journey. Every morning when he put on the tefillin, the man felt as if he were being transported to a different world.
The tefillin were very powerful and enabled him to have tremendous kavanos he had never been able to achieve on his own. True to his promise, he always refrained from speaking while wearing them. One day a business associate burst into the synagogue and began to talk to him in the middle of davening. The man automatically replied, only to realize a second too late that he was still wearing the tefillin. He immediately closed his mouth, but it was too late; the words were out. Like an electric cord being pulled from the socket, he suddenly felt that the tefillin had no effect on him. The man was devastated.
The next day he tried again and waited for the tefillin to exert their spiritual effect, but to no avail. He put them on the next day and the next, but nothing happened. Finally realizing that there was nothing he could do, he took them to a sofer as a last resort to look for any possible imperfections. The sofer took the tefillin and opened them up. When he removed the parchment from the batim, however, he saw that they were blank. All of the letters had flown away.