In the HBO second season of Girls, the lead character Hannah is confronted with a job prospect that requires her to follow a directive on the wall of her potential employer: A frame with the statement: Your Comfort Zone. An arrow outside the frame on the wall to a circle inside of which is written: “Magic Happens.”
Unfortunately, it leads her to experiment with drugs and leaves some of her closest relationships in shambles. More seriously, in our Torah portion, we have two young men, Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu, who become seduced by the beauty and power of God’s fire consuming the sacrifices of initiation. They bring a fire which God had not commanded to replicate the ‘trick’ and end up becoming sacrifices themselves.
But making people move out of their comfort zone can be constructive and, in some cases, necessary for spiritual and emotional growth.
I have a proposal to deal with the standoff in Israel about the ultra-Orthodox Charedimserving in the military and helping to shoulder the burden of citizenship. I’m largely on the side of the Yesh Atid folks who think they do need to serve, if not in the military then in some national service, but I think the way Israel is going about it is flawed and destined for failure because it puts the cart before the horse.
My proposal would require everyone to get out of their comfort zone. It would require the Ultra-Orthodox to interact civilly with the Secular Israelis who pay taxes and fund their existence and it would require the Secular Israelis to have some patience in setting the groundwork for a sustainable solution.
With Ruth Calderon as a visible representation of Secular Israeli appreciation for Torah study, a member of the Kenesset from Yesh Atid (“There’s a Future”) who went viral on YouTube with her Talmud teaching in the Israeli parliament: What if every Israeli secular child did a Daf Yomi, a page a day of Talmud study (with age appropriate synopses) for 1/2 an hour a day starting in 6th grade and going through graduation in 12th grade? What if every year they were paired with an Orthodox child and had some kind of event to discuss what they had learned culminating with a huge Siyyum (“End of Study Celebration”) at graduation?
This might lead to the separate Israeli communities developing some mutual respect. Perhaps the Orthodox kids will develop a desire to learn math and science. The actual solution to the whole problem -- unlike forcing the Ultra-Orthodox to share the burden with laws, which so many of us think we have figured out -- may be a formulation we haven’t imagined yet that will only come out of the two divided communities learning from each other and getting out of their comfort zones.
The opportunity cost to Israeli society of not having the Charedim -- a highly disciplined and prolific community -- in the work force is immeasurable.
For six days each week, we are commanded to work, to move outside our comfort zone, to challenge ourselves and learn resilience. Shabbat is a moment each week to reflect on the progress we’ve made in becoming better, more adaptive human beings.
And to be grateful that we didn’t get burned too badly in the process.