During the time the Chafetz Chaim was compiling his Mishnah Berurah, he learned together with his son-in-law. At one point, they spent three entire days working to resolve a certain issue. Finally, when they resolved it, the Chafetz Chaim wrote the ruling in the book, and it comprised all of two lines.
His son-in-law turned to him and said, “Once the Mishnah Berurah is printed, and Jews around the world will be studying it, will anybody appreciate the amount of time and effort you exerted in these two lines? They’re going to read it in 30 seconds and then move on!”
The Chafetz Chaim responded with a story. At one point when he was younger, during the reign of the czar, the Chafetz Chaim was in Siberia. He saw hundreds of peoples laying tracks for the czar’s railroad. It was backbreaking labor performed under the harshest weather conditions. The laborers literally put their blood, sweat, and tears into the project. While he was there, the Chafetz Chaim saw a father and son working together, and overheard the son ask the father, “Thousands of people are going to ride on this railroad. Will any of them realize how much backbreaking work went into it?”
The father answered, “It doesn’t matter what people will think or not think, or what they will know or not know. We work for just one reason, for one purpose: to fulfill the command of the czar. He is our leader, he is our father, he is the one who protects the country, and he asked us to build a railroad. That’s all that counts.”
“It’s the same thing here,” the Chafetz Cham told his son-in-law. “The Master of the world is our King. It doesn’t matter if anyone recognizes or appreciates our efforts. We are working for Hashem, and we will do the job to the best of our ability.”
People work very hard in life, and most are underappreciated. A husband wakes up early every morning, he travels quite a distance, and works long hours to provide for his family. A wife spends her entire day caring for her children and caring for the house. Both are underappreciated. The Chovot HaLevavot teaches us that we do not care for our families in order to be appreciated, or so we can exert our control over them. Rather, we do so to fulfill Hashem’s command – “love your fellow as yourself.”
We have only one boss in life. The good news is that He recognizes not only our physical efforts, but also the mental effort we invest in fulfilling His will. Whenever we perform an act of kindness for another person, we do so not only to help that person, but also because Hashem commanded us to act kindly. Sometimes a person makes sheva berachot for a newlywed couple, spending days cooking and arranging, and the couple arrives late, leaves early, and does not even say “thank you.” And the person thinks to himself, I worked so hard, yet they didn’t even appreciate what I did. This person needs to know that he does not have to worry. He worked for Hashem, fulfilling His command, and he appreciated every ounce of effort that was put in.
Some people work for hesed organizations, spending hours on the phone, taking precious time away from their personal lives and jobs, yet no one has any idea of how much work they do. This should not bother them one bit. We don’t work for people, and we don’t work to be noticed or appreciated. We work in order to fulfill the will of Hashem.