Rebbe Nachman of Breslov tells us (Sichos HaRan #244): “A person can devote his entire life to avodas Hashem without seeing the result of his efforts; yet in the World to Come, he will see what he has accomplished.” How are we to understand the meaning of this somewhat cryptic statement?
The Talmud Yerushalmi tells the story of Rabbi Abahu, who, before he died, was shown a vision of 13 rivers of balsam oil. “Who is all this for?” he asked. “It is for you,” Heaven responded. “All these are for Abahu!” he exclaimed, upon which he quoted the verse, “And I had said that I labored in vain” (Isaiah 49:4).
Some people find very little inspiration in their prayers and Torah study. They may even put much effort into them yet never enjoy the fruits of their labors while alive in this world. It may seem to them that they’ve accomplished nothing!
This is not only true for us; it is even true for great tzaddikim, as we see from the story of Rabbi Abahu. Yet, Rebbe Nachman tells us, in the World to Come we will see the wondrous edifice we have constructed for ourselves through our good deeds.
As we labor day after day to improve ourselves and draw closer to Hashem, let us recall that our efforts ARE having a tremendous impact, even if we are unable to detect it. May this idea serve to encourage us never to give up despite the difficult obstacles we constantly face.