It was such a treat for me. And it came out of the blue, making it that much more precious. I opened my email and saw a message from a divorced grandmother we know who comes to us from time to time for a Shabbat meal.

Elana, I was so exhausted today, and I got onto the back of the bus and saw your son. He saw me, too, and noticed how tired I was, and offered to take my bus card to the front of the bus for the driver to validate. He saved me from having to push my way up to the front, and I was able to sit down. I just wanted you to know that.

Tears welled in my eyes. Why? Because when my son came home that day he didn’t even mention it, and it made me realize: My children do so many kind, wonderful acts of goodness every day that I don’t even know about. Your children do so many kind, wonderful acts of goodness every day, and you don’t even know about it.

You plant and you plant and you plant those seeds, and you’re not always around to see the fruits that come out of all that planting. You put in so much effort, and at times you ask yourself, “For what?”

Why? Because you’re tired. Or you’re frustrated. You think that they don’t hear you or listen to you. Maybe you think that all the work is in vain.

You clean up your home while they’re at school and within a few minutes of their arrival, it’s a mess again. You clean their clothes and before they even sit down to eat, they’re dirty. The dinner you prepared in an hour is gone within 15 minutes. You put in effort, love, time and money. It seems like endless tasks and chores that never end or accomplish anything. But that’s not true.

How do I know that?

Because I see it in the mother who gets up at night to nurse her baby even though in two hours’ time, she’ll be up again. And the baby grows by inches and pounds.

I see it in the mother who lovingly washes those clothes knowing that they’ll get dirty and irons those shirts knowing that they will wrinkle. She wipes a nose for the 20th time and repeats the same story 10 times that night. And this makes the child feel loved and secure.

I see it in a woman whose child is going through a hard time and everyone has given up on that child, except for her. And that’s the only thing that keeps her from not giving up on herself.

I see it in a mother who has a child involved with very dangerous people, doing very dangerous things, and she still waits for him or her to come home, to change their ways. She still prays for and cries over this child like no one else can.

I see it. I feel it. It’s a special planting of seeds that sometimes you have the opportunity to see sprout. And sometimes you don’t. You don’t, but you continue to water those seeds and shine them with light of hope and love, knowing in your heart that at any moment, the potential for growth is there.

And they journeyed from Bethel, and there was still some distance to come to Ephrath, and Rachel gave birth, and her labor was difficult. It came to pass when she had such difficulty giving birth, that the midwife said to her, “Do not be afraid, for this one, too, is a son for you.” And it came to pass, when her soul departed for she died that she named him Ben oni, but his father called him Benjamin. So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way (road) to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. (Genesis 35:16-19)

The Torah tells us that our matriarch, Mother Rachel, died after giving birth. She passed away before she reached her destination. She passed away before she saw her son grow up. She passed away on the way. The way to where?

Later, Jacob tells his son, Yosef, who is Rachel’s eldest son: “As for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died to me in the land of Canaan on the way, when there was still a stretch of land to come to Ephrath, and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.” (Genesis 48:7)

The Torah commentator Rashi explains, and I buried her there: And I did not take her even to Bethlehem to bring her into the Land (i.e., into the inhabited region of the Holy Land), and I know that you hold it against me; but you should know that I buried her there by divine command, so that she would be of assistance to her children. When Nebuzaradan exiles them (the Israelites), and they pass by there, Rachel will emerge from her grave and weep and beg mercy for them, as it is said: “A voice is heard on high [lamentation, bitter weeping, Rachel is weeping for her children]” (Jer. 31:14). And the Holy One, blessed be He, answers her, “‘There is reward for your work,’ says the L‑rd, . . . ‘and the children shall return to their own border.’ ”

Rachel, our beloved Mother, taught us the essence of what it means to be a doting parent. A mother is planting and crying and praying and never losing hope. A mother doesn’t give up on her child—she simply can’t—even though everyone else has. A mother is always on the way to something; she’s not here, she’s not there. She doesn’t always arrive at the destination that she imagine, but she’s on the way nonetheless because she knows . . .

One day, one day. She’s cultivating and planting. One day, her child, G‑d willing, will grow. One day, her child will, G‑d willing, come home . . .