There are two kinds of chassidic stories.

There is the supernatural sort, stories about great chassidic masters who manipulated nature at will. Foreseeing events well into the future, curing the incurable, traveling great distances in the blink of an eye, etc. These stories teach us that there are individuals so in tune with the G‑dly essence of creation that they stand above it all.

Then there are stories about the simple folk. When I say simple, I'm talking relative to the great protagonists of the first type of story. Stories about people who helped others despite the tremendous personal cost or risk involved, people who demonstrated unflinching trust in G‑d in moments of intense travail, people who stuck to their principles despite tremendous temptations.

Personally, the latter genre of stories always spoke to me much louder than the former. After all, I'm pretty certain that I'll never reach the level of the Baal Shem Tov; I doubt that I'll ever hold influence over the forces of nature or that I'll ever be clairvoyant. But when I hear of an individual who faced pretty much the same kind of internal landscape and struggles as I do, and emerged successful... suddenly I look at myself and say, "So, Naftali, can't you do the same?"

Yes, I know that the books tell me that I can. But when I see or hear about someone who actually has, it all becomes so much more real to me. The books suddenly come to life.

This past week I came upon a news story that got me thinking in this direction:

A Massachusetts philanthropist is using five million dollars of his own money to restore the retirement savings of his employees who lost their nest eggs to Bernard Madoff.

Robert I. Lappin began restoring the funds to sixty employees of his company, and to his private charity, The Robert I. Lappin Charitable Foundation—a nonprofit that supports Jewish education and culture on the North Shore of Massachusetts. The employees' 401(k) plans, as well as the foundation's money and some of Lappin's personal wealth, were managed by Madoff.

What I find most amazing about this story is that Lappin's net worth is now less than ten million dollars, a tenth of what it was before the scandal. Nevertheless, instead of bemoaning his immense personal losses – some ninety million dollars! – he's focusing on helping others.

We currently find ourselves in the Three Weeks, a time of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temples. Our Sages tell us that the second Temple was destroyed because of wanton hatred; the Jews at the time simply couldn't get along with each other. It is now nearly 2,000 years later and we are still in Exile; the Temple has yet to be rebuilt. All this because we have not yet rectified the original reason for the exile; we still have to improve in the area of Ahavat Yisrael, love for our fellow Jews.

I've always known that I should and could improve in this area. But this past week, the concept came alive for me.

Mr. Lappin, aside for the help you have given your employees and those who benefit from your worthy foundation, you're also serving as a beacon of light to so many others who have heard of your incredible deed. Myself included.

May G‑d amply reward you.