Yosef was sent by his brothers to a strange land, cut off from his father and his family, and left alone in the world. His reunion with his brothers, after so many years of estrangement is one of the most emotional and enrapturing episodes recorded in the Torah. His ability to ultimately forgive his brothers, and live in harmony with them for the remainder of his life is one of the great feats of strength that we witness in human history. Yosef did that all alone. He had no help. Rabbi Shimon Sofer (of Krakow, the son of Chasam Sofer, Michtav Sofer Drush 6) explains that although the word ish usually translates as “man”, thus having the verse read “no man was with Yosef,” in other contexts in the Torah, the word ish is used as a word for an Angel. (See Maimonides, Yesodei Hatorah 2:7 and 7:1 where he lists Ishim as a category of Angels.) When Yosef was looking for his brothers (Bereshis 37:15) he ran into an ish who told him that he could find his brothers in Dosan. That ish, our sages teach us, was the angel Gabriel, the angel of strength. Listening to his father’s command was something that required an immense amount of strength on the part of Yosef. After all, Yosef knew of his brothers feelings about him. But Yosef received the assistance of Gabriel, and thus was able to marshal his inner power and push on to fulfill his task. We all receive help from others in reaching our goals. Yosef got some help, and our sages teach us that this “man” who helped him was indeed Hashem working through an Angel.
The highest level, however, is when we can stand up to our challenges unassisted. Though as a young man, Yosef required an ish to help him overcome his obstacles, by the time he got the strength to truly forgive his brothers, he needed no assistance from any ish. He had reached a point where he could handle such an enormous challenge on his own. He cites Ramban who teaches that the greatness of our forefathers was that Hashem left them without any outside assistance allowing them to fully rule over their inclinations of their own, and they lived up to that challenge doing the right thing of their own accord.
Yosef named a son Menashe, “for Hashem caused me to forget… my father’s home”. On the surface this sounds like a bizarre sort of name to give a child. Meor Vashemesh explains (see also Techeles Mordechai of Maharsham, to Miketz-Chanukah 45b citing this source) that when Yosef was tempted by Potiphars wife, our sages tell us 9Sotah 36b) that he was prepared to submit to her seduction until he saw his fathers image in the window, and that reminded him of what he could and should be. Yosef later grew to the point where he no longer needed to remember his father’s face. He could withstand temptation on his own, without having to use the memory of his holy father to aid him. It was in celebration of this that Yosef named his some Menashe, for he achieved a level that allowed him to not need to always be thinking of his father.
There a great deal of help coming to us in our lives at all times. Hashem sends his messengers and messages to us in all sorts of ways, allowing us to grow. But our goal is to internalize those messages so that we can truly need no help from man or angel, as our grandfather Yosef succeeded in doing.