The Torah portrays Moshe as someone who is passionate about the well-being of his people. Despite growing up in luxury in Pharaoh's palace, he ventures beyond its walls to experience their pain and suffering first-hand, where his passion for justice leads him to risk not only his privileged position, but his very life on their behalf. After fleeing to the wilderness, he once again displays a passion for helping the powerless, rescuing the daughters of Yitro and displaying extraordinary care for even the smallest of animals in his role as shepherd. Moshe clearly seems qualified to lead, but God is evidently not convinced. He still feels a need to go fishing for the right man, so He lays out one last piece of bait to see if Moshe will bite.
One day, as he is shepherding his flock, Moshe spots a burning bush on the path, and he says to himself: "Let me turn aside and take a look at this great vision" Then we are told: "God saw him turn aside to look and he called out to him ..." Clearly, despite all his passion for righteousness and justice, it's Moshe's willingness to "turn aside" that ultimately qualifies him to lead. But what's so great about that? Wouldn't many of us stop to get a closer look under similar circumstances?
According to the commentator known as the Kli Yakar, Moshe didn't move towards the bush to get a closer look. Rather, he moved away from the bush to gain distance and perspective so that he could carefully consider what was happening and what he could learn from it. In other words, despite Moshe's great passion for his people and for justice, it's ultimately his desire for perspective that lands him his leadership role.
This week, as we inaugurate our new President, the flames of passion burn bright throughout our country. There are many who hate Mr. Trump with a passion, and others who passionately support him. What better time to remember the lesson of our parsha: Passion is a wonderful and important quality, but it must be tempered with a healthy dose of perspective. No matter how strongly we may feel about an issue, we must be willing to stop, turn aside, and examine not only the evidence for our own beliefs, but the reasons why others believe the way they do, and we must try to apply the same level of critical thinking and scrutiny to both.
To some, this may seem self-evident, but I have personally encountered people who seem to have little interest in evidence or in questioning their beliefs. Let's strive to be fair and balanced at all times, regardless of our inevitable biases. Perspective isn't just an important quality for leaders. It's essential for anyone who wishes to ensure that their passions don't lead them, albeit with the very best of intentions, down a dangerous and potentially destructive path.