I opened my eyes, feeling uneasy. The curtains were still drawn, the light off, the house quiet. I rubbed my eyes, hard, and looked at my watch. Seven a.m. My shifting evidently disturbed my wife. She awoke, sat up, and looked at me for a long moment, frowning slightly.

“What’s the matter?” she asked.

“Nochum Sternlicht was just standing at the foot of my bed.”

I felt curiously wide awake. I peered behind me, consciously apprehensive. My wife gave a small, sleepy chuckle. Nochum Sternlicht, an acquaintance of mine, as well as a renowned sofer, was no longer among the living. But for all intents and purposes, two minutes earlier he had been present in my bedroom. Not surprisingly, my eyes met with the wallpaper and the small window overlooking the street.

“So you had a dream.” My wife didn’t understand why I was still feeling, and obviously looking, disconcerted.

“It was so vivid. He was there. Right there.” I pointed to the edge of my bed. “All I remember saying to him in the dream is, ‘What are you doing here? You’re not supposed to be here.’ ”

Now she raised her eyebrows. “Didn’t you tell me the other week that you wanted to get your tefillin checked? Maybe he came to remind you.”

Whatever the case, the dream certainly pushed me into action. The next day I took my tefillin, which I’d had since my bar mitzvah almost 30 years earlier, to my sofer, Reb Shua Lichtenstein. I asked him to check to ensure they were still completely kosher.

Shortly after, Reb Shua called me.

“Until now, kosher; from now, passul,” he informed me. “At first I thought they were fine,” he explained. “But after opening and examining them closely I saw that the ink is coming away, like a cloud of dust.”

He willingly lent me a pair of his own until I bought a new pair. I was grateful to be able to wait a few days as my oldest daughter had given birth to our first grandson the week before and my wife and I had booked tickets to visit her in Eretz Yisrael. We left the following week, enjoyed our stay immensely, and I bought myself a brand-new, entirely kosher, pair of tefillin.

Upon my arrival back home I once again visited Reb Shua. This time it was to return the tefillin he’d so kindly lent to me.

“Do you know what prompted me to have my old pair checked?” I asked him.

“They had been yours for a while, I presume,” he said, a familiar sparkle in his eye.

“Yes, and no.”

My one-man audience was now curious. I continued.

“Nochum Sternlicht appeared to me one night in a dream.” I could still picture him, within reach, in my bedroom. “He obviously had the zechus to make sure I have a kosher pair of tefillin.”

Since my tale ended there I was surprised to see Reb Shua’s face turn pale. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 678)