Rav Yitzhak Yosef and An Agunah's Prayer
From Community Magazine, part of a larger article describing Rav Yitzhak Yosef Shlit"a's recent trip to the US East Coast, where he told over this story:
A man was once brought before the court in shackles, with his hands and legs cuffed. The dayanim were taken aback by the sight of a shackled man accompanied by five police officers.
“What’s going on?” the hacham asked.
“Write up an arrest for this man!” one of the officers demanded. “He has been wanted by the police for over five years.”
“What crime has he committed?”
“He refuses to give his wife a get.” The policemen explained that they had already lost the man once, and so they wanted him behind bars immediately.
The other two dayanim signed the warrant for the man’s arrest without hesitating, but the Chief Rabbi was not so quick to follow. The other rabbis reminded Hacham Yitzhak of this man’s story, which he had heard about in the past, and insisted that the time had come to send the man to prison for keeping his wife an agunah (“chained woman”), unable to remarry. But Hacham Yitzhak refused to sign the warrant, and instead asked to speak with the man and with his wife.
“Why will you not give her a get?” the rabbi asked gently. “It’s been five years.”
“Dear rabbi,” the man replied, “she wants a lot of money.”
The other dayanim grew impatient. They turned to Hacham Yitzhak and asked, “Nu, why are you going back and forth with this man? Just sign!” The rabbi refused.
“I didn’t want to,” he confided to the kollel members.
“I could have written an arrest and he would have gone to prison, but I was stubborn. I spoke with him for three hours.”
Afterward, the rabbi spoke to the man’s wife, trying to convince her to withdraw her demands so she could move on and build a new family. “Why have him go to prison and remain an agunah?”
The woman agreed. The rabbis immediately summoned a sofer (scribe) and had the get written. They then brought two witnesses, and the man gave the woman a get.
After the procedure, the woman told the court the extraordinary background to the story. She had been trying to obtain a divorce from her husband for a very long time, and the police eventually put out a warrant for his arrest.
“My husband disappeared,” she said. “The police went looking for him, but to no avail. He was gone.” For five long years, she remained an agunah.
The Friday evening prior to the proceedings, she went to the grave of Maran Hacham Ovadia Yosef, zt”l, where she cried and prayed. She poured out her emotion, expressing her concern for the future and the hardship of raising a child alone, and begging the sacred soul of the hacham to intercede on her behalf.
The very next day, on Shabbat afternoon, she went to pray Minhah at the Kotel. At one point she looked up from her siddur, and her heart nearly stopped. She saw her husband, for the first time in five years, standing there. After quickly collecting herself, she approached a nearby police officer, telling her that there is a warrant for the man’s arrest. This is how he was forced to come to the Bet Din.
Hacham Ovadia heard her prayers, and begged the Almighty to help her.