Parashat BaMidbar opens with Hashem’s command to Moshe to appoint one leader for each tribe of Bnei Yisrael to help him take a census of the nation. This section starts off with the words “Seu Et Rosh Kol Adat Bnei Yisrael,” “Count the entire assembly of Bnei Yisrael” (BaMidbar 1:2). The use of the word “Seu,” which usually means “Lift Up,” in conjunction with the appointment of leaders teaches us a very valuable lesson. A leader is one who is elevated; his actions are subject to greater scrutiny, greater expectations. In addition, the people must be able to admire and respect their leader as a higher role model and if that respect is lost, that leader may no longer be effective.
As we approach this week’s primary elections for New Jersey on June 3, and because this is a year of a presidential election, we must ask ourselves what we expect of our leaders.
At the same time and by strong contrast, the very next section counts all the individuals of Bnei Yisrael. Rashi comments that the counting is to show love for the Jews. Hashem loves all of us regardless of our status, whether or not we are a leader, and counts all of us to show us that even though we cannot all be appointed as a leader we all have the ability to become leaders.
Frequently, a person feels inadequate to do a job and they might say, “Let someone else do the job, they are better than I.” But the lesson is clear – we all count and are all capable of doing what a leader can do.
Last week, the NORPAC mission to Washington brought approximately 900 people to meet with Congressional leaders and advocate for Israel. Though they were not the leaders, each of the individuals who went on this mission took a leadership role in helping Israel.
As we learn in Pirkei Avot (2:16), “Loh Alecha HaMelachah Ligmor VeLo Atah Ben Chorin LiBateil MiMenah,” meaning that even if we can’t complete every individual task, we are obligated to do our best as individuals with the potential for greatness.