The fan hummed, creating a soft atmosphere in the classroom. Spring had settled in, summer was approaching, and the warm sunlight streamed in through the large windows.

“Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them,” Mr. Benson was reading the Torah portion to the class. “When you come to the land that I am giving you, the land shall rest a Sabbath for G‑d. You should sow your field for six years . . .”

Ben had heard of Shemittah, the Sabbath for the land. He knew that this year is a Shemittah year, observed by many farmers in the Land of Israel.

“Mr. Benson,” Adam raised his hand to ask a question, “when the Jewish people first entered the Land of Israel with Joshua, did they first have a year of rest, or did they first work the fields for six years and then have the year of rest?”

Ben laughed to himself. How could you think they would rest first? But Mr. Benson didn’t laugh. “Good question,” he said. “What would you say, Adam?”

“I don’t know.”

That’s why I asked the question—because I don’t know, Adam thought to himself. But he didn’t say anything.

Mr. Benson just stood there with a smile, and then, as if reading Adam’s mind, said, “Look closely at the verses in the Torah, Adam, and pay attention to the order that the commandments are written.”

“Okay,” Adam said as he looked at the text in front of him. “Let’s see . . . ‘Speak to the children of Israel . . . the land shall rest . . . sow your fields for six years . . .’”

“Ahh, I know,” he almost yelled. “First they rested, and then they worked for six years!”

“Good,” Mr. Benson said encouragingly. “Explain why you say that.”

“Well,” the words tumbled out of Adam’s mouth, “first the Torah speaks about resting, and then it speaks about working.”

“Excellent,” Mr. Benson said. “Now, the sages tell us that in fact they first worked for six years and then they rested. So now we have a question. What is the question?”

“Why does the Torah speak about the resting first?” Adam answered.

The rest of the class sat listening with their full attention.

Ben raised his hand. “Could it be,” he said hesitantly, “because the Shemittah year, the year of rest, is the most important year, and that’s why the Torah speaks about it first?”

“Very good,” Mr. Benson said. “The Torah is teaching us that the real point of all the six years of work is that one year at the end which will be filled with the study of Torah and spiritual activities, making it a year which is a Sabbath to G‑d. That’s why it mentions Shemittah right at the beginning.”

“Like knowing from the beginning that at the end of the week will be Shabbat,” said Adam. “Cool!”