I sat down with one of my children to work on his math homework. He didn’t get it. I mean he really didn’t get it.

I realized that I’d have to go back to the basics with this child. We’d have to start from scratch because somehow, somewhere, he got lost.

I make multiplicationWe practice it over and over again flash cards for him. We practice it over and over again. At some point, I just want to cry. I ask myself, “Where will you find the patience? The time? The energy?”

All of a sudden, I have a flashback. I was in third grade helping my best friend learn multiplication.

I remember that moment. I helped her one time, I helped her twice. We did it over and over again. Every day during recess until ... she got it.

Maybe G‑d put me there 34 years ago with that friend as a third-grader so that I could be prepared for my own son now. Who knows? The thought gave me energy and the confidence to keep trying.

We did the multiplication tables over and over again. 2x1=2, 2x2=4 ... I had him jump on a trampoline as I called out the numbers. We did this for a week. Day after day until one day, he got it. The words of King David came to mind, “Those who sow with tears will reap with song. He will go along weeping, carrying the valuable seeds; he will come back with song, carrying his sheaves.”1

I always read this psalm and thought that it meant that with my prayers and tears, I would later “reap” the benefits of seeing blessing in my children. And it does mean that, but there is more.

So many times in our lives, G‑d gives us seeds. He plants seeds. Seeds of experience, seeds of challenge, seeds of tears. Seeds that make us think, “Why do I need to go through this experience or meet that person?” So many times in our lives, we work hard and don’t see the results of our efforts, or we cry and don’t see our prayers answered. But what we don’t know is that those, too, were indeed seeds. Seeds that take time, and only G‑d knows when or how they will grow to turn into trees. We even have seeds that we don’t realize are seeds! Like this little example of teaching my son multiplication tables.

When I think about it, I can recall a hundred examples of times G‑d put me in a place or made me meet a person that only much later in my life would I realize how life-changing that encounter would prove to be.

The Torah2 and the prophets3 compare humans to trees. Why? Just like a seed is planted and only much later do we see the fruits, human beings have seeds that are given to us by G‑d, in His infinite kindness, that we do not see the results of until much later in our lives.

G‑d is constantlyG‑d is constantly planting seeds within us planting seeds within us—seeds that have the potential to grow into a skill and be used as a tool. Seeds that can give a person the confidence they need to grow and produce fruits.

We only need to open our eyes to see them. And, of course, to take those seeds of potential, plant, water, nurture, grow and utilize them.

Tu B’Shevat is the Rosh Hashanah, the New Year, of the trees. On this festive day, there is a custom to eat fruit, especially fruits for which Israel is famous: olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates.

Imagine the process it takes for those fruits to get to our table.

On this Tu B’Shevat, when I sit down after a long year of many tears and challenges as I savor those fruits, I am going to offer up a prayer of thanks to G‑d for all of those seeds that He plants within us and remember that every experience we go through is for a purpose.