Yosef is sent by his father to Sh’chem to check on his brothers. Along the way, he becomes lost and is found by a “man” who notices him in a field and tells Yosef where his brothers are. The N’tziv (in his Haameik Davar) writes: “In truth, the Torah should have said, “and he found a man,” for it was Yosef who was wandering alone, searching, and found the man – not the man who was walking on his way. Rather, the pasuk comes to teach us that the man was a messenger from Heaven, sent to encounter Yosef and bring him to Dosan, and the “man” (angel) went and found him in that place.
The well-known Tzadik of Yerushalayim, Rav Aryeh Levin zt”l, was renowned as an “Ish Chesed” – a man who excelled in acts of kindness. He spent his days visiting prisons and hospitals, showing his care and determination to assist even the most downtrodden. One day, as he stood over a gravely ill and comatose patient in the Bikur Cholim Hospital in Jerusalem, he was surprised when the patient suddenly opened his eyes and looked right at him. “Reb Aryeh,” the man said in a voice full of urgency, “I have just returned from the Beis Din shel Maalah (Heavenly Court), which ruled that I must return to this world to correct my deficiencies. But it wasn’t easy. I got lost along the way and could not find my way back!”
Of course, Rav Aryeh was intrigued by these words and asked him to elaborate. The man was weak, but he continued speaking nonetheless. “After the Beis Din released me, I had no idea how to get back to this world. Suddenly, I heard someone calling my name: ‘Yosef, Yosef.’ I turned to see a man sitting on a nearby mountaintop calling to me. I walked over to him and he said to me, ‘Yosef, do you recognize me?’ I admitted that I did not, and he said he will remind me.
“The man told me the following story: ‘The custom in Europe was for the poor and indigent Jews to congregate in the shuls and batei midrash on Friday night and Shabbos day, and hope to be invited to one of the locals for the Shabbos meals. I was a beggar and would roam from place to place collecting money. On Friday night, I, too, would go to the local shul and hope to be invited. The problem was that I was a very heavy-set man, and most people assumed that I ate so much to look like this. As a result, people would hesitate to invite me, and I was usually one of the last to be chosen.
“‘One Friday night, after they finished Aleinu, I stood with a few other beggars and waited for an invitation. One by one, people would leave the shul, selecting a guest from the pool of beggars in the back. But my invitation never came. Everyone else found a place except for me. I was still standing near the door, when you and your father were leaving the shul. Your father took one look at me and said, ‘Come, Yosef, let’s go home. We are not having this man at our table.’ The two of you left the shul, leaving me all by my lonesome. I was deeply hurt and depressed, and I burst into tears. I had no place to go, nobody wanted me for a meal, and I was quite hungry. I sat down in the back of the shul and just cried.’
The sick man lay in bed, but his eyes were shining bright from the vivid memory. “The man on the mountain continued: ‘After ten minutes, you suddenly reappeared in the shul and invited me to your home for the meal. I asked you what caused you to change your mind, and you told me that when you got home you said to your parents, ‘Father and mother, I don’t understand. How can we eat when there is a Jew who is starving? Where is the rachmanus, the mercy, on this Jew? How can we just leave him alone in the shul, while we eat to our heart’s content?’ Finally, your father relented and you came back for me. I was overjoyed and I told you then, that I will repay you for this kindness. Although we never met again in the world down below, I see you here now. What can I do for you, Yosef? How can I help you?’
“‘Well,’ said the sick man, ‘I told him that I am being sent back down to the physical world but I don’t know the way. He graciously showed me the way and the next thing I know, I woke up here in the hospital!’” The man was devoid of strength, but Rav Aryeh was infused with a tremendous chizuk. No act of kindness will ever go unpaid – in this world or in the next!