The Arizal replied that he had not stood up for him (i.e. Rabbi Shmuel) but rather that he had stood for Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair (the father-in-law of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar who had lived some 1500 years before!) The Arizal explained that Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair had entered together with Rabbi Shmuel because of a Mitzvah that he had done. It was a Mitzvah that Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair was accustomed to do.
When Rabbi Chaim Vital heard this, he ran to greet him (Rabbi Shmuel) and created a friendly atmosphere and repoire with him. Said Rabbi Chaim Vital, "By my life, my master, tell me what Mitzvah did you do today, that which the Rav spoke about?" Rabbi Shmuel responded, "I arose early in the morning to go to shul (the synagogue) as is my custom - to be counted as one of the first of the first ten to arrive. I heard a voice crying greatly coming from one of the houses. And so I turned towards there to know what was happening. I entered and saw that everyone was crying, since it had happened that thieves had come that past evening, and they stole all their clothes and *everything* that they had owned, and my mercy was aroused. And so I removed my very own garments and I gave them to them - and the proof of this is that I am currently wearing my festive Shabbos clothing."
When Rabbi Chaim Vital heard this, he kissed him upon his hand and blessed him!
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THIS STORY?
1. The Tzaddikim - even those in other worlds, are well aware of our deeds in this world. More than this, they are delighted to attach themselves to those who take special care in performing Mitzvahs with all their hearts.
2. When we perform Mitzvos that those Tzaddikim had performed in their lifetimes with care - then they accompany us - often protecting us from many things in this world. They very often help us in understanding many areas of Torah we may not understand on our own. They also may help us in other areas.
3. Tzaddikim (NOTE: TRUE TZADDIKIM) are also able to see with their physical eyes other souls walking in this world and are also aware of the reasons as to why these souls are present.
Many times we simply continue with the humdrum of life, oblivious to the real pain of others. How often it can happen that another person will have such tragedies happen to them (Lo Aleinu) that they can be robbed of their most precious possessions. In such instances, we often turn towards them with an apparently kind word, "Have faith!" - we say. Or perhaps, "Don't you believe in G-d? All is for the good!" We might even say such things as, "Now that G-d has punished you, you will be well compensated and all blessings will flow from this point onwards!"
Often we find ourselves occupied in our own Mitzvos when tragedy may strike another (Lo Aleinu). After all, we have Tefillin to put on, a Minyan to catch! Perhaps it's Sukkos and it's time to get into our Sukkos with a smile on our faces - the time of our happiness - as the Torah calls it! We encounter a Jew who has suffered such a tragedy, and with a smile, we shrug our shoulders, wish them well, barely understanding their pain on this - OUR happy occasion! Indeed, we have Kiddush to make and we simply may hope that the victim find his own way home to tend to his own problems - on his own. We're sure he'll be able to call the police (on Sukkos of course!) and have them come to attend to his loss. And of course, he probably won't feel frightened that evening as he sits in his Sukka - his home robbed of much - wondering if perhaps the thieves will return knowing fully well that the entire home is now wide open!
We can come up with a dozen excuses regarding our behaviour. Whether it's the apparently "kind" word uttered, or the important duties we have to perform. Things will eventually get taken care of.
The Arizal teaches us otherwise. Rabbi Chaim Vital knows better... and Rabbi Shmuel performs the actual deed! There are no excuses to be made. When another is suffering, there is only one way to help... IT IS TO HELP!
As the Baal Shem Tov teaches, "Make your friend's spiritual needs be considered like your physical needs, and make your friend's physical needs be considered like your spiritual needs."
Instead of a righteous attitude and offering false platitudes, the Baal Shem Tov teaches the importance of the immediacy of the situation... TO TAKE ACTION AND HELP ANOTHER IMMEDIATELY! Whether on our way to another Mitzvah... Whether the family concerned may even be apparently deserving of something (just because we rationalise it so!) Or whether it's simply because we apparently have all the perfect right words to say. All of this is WORTHLESS!
What is needed is immediate action - HELP!
When a person behaves in this way, not only does he do what is right - and he will certainly receive his reward, but he merits that a Tzaddik from another world will accompany him on his journies that day. He will bless him, be with him and aid and protect him. Indeed, there are others who know that such things take place. For those of us with spiritual eyes, we will see such things. For those of us with physical eyes, we must be stronger in our faith to be aware that these things do actually happen.