Why was Moshe chosen to lead the Jewish people? The Midrash tells us that Moshe was a shepherd in Midian. He took his flock out to the desert so that they would not graze in someone else’s fields. One day a young sheep ran away. Moshe spent many hours in the hot sun chasing it down. He finally found it drinking water by a puddle of water. Normally, what would the average person do especially if no one is around to see? They may take their frustrations out on the sheep by kicking it and calling it a few choice names.
What did Moshe do? He said, “Oh my poor little sheep, I did not know you were thirsty. If I knew then I would have given you water. You must be tired from your long walk. I will put you on my shoulder and carry you back to the flock.” Hashem saw this and said, “Moshe if this is how you deal with a flock of sheep, then you are fit to be the shepherd of my flock, the Jewish People!” Then immediately when Moshe turned around he saw the vision of the burning bush.
This concept of a Jewish leader is in direct contrast to the world concept of the ruler of a Nation. Since the start of recorded history men have justified their kingship as divinely ordained. It was their right to have power over the people whom they ruled. However as the saying goes, POWER CORRUPTS AND ABSOLUTE POWER CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY”. In contrast, a Jewish king’s obligation was to ensure the material and spiritual success of the people. It was all about them. In fact, the King was held accountable to the same moral and ethical standard as the most common man. If he violated the laws, he was punished accordingly.
In addition, throughout the First Temple era, there were prophets who frequently chastised the Kings for failing to reach the high standard that Hashem demanded them. Could we imagine a prophet coming to King George and saying “Thus said the Lord, NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION?” King George would say, “Off with his head!” Now we can understand why the Parsha first lists off the Nasi for each Shevet and then repeats their name when talking about the placement of each Shevet in the encampment. A Jewish leader is not just a title of honor. It is a tremendous responsibility to help and improve the lives of the people that are under their leadership. It is not only an obligation to improve their spiritual lives but it is also an obligation to make sure that they are also taken care of materialistically.
This concept does not only apply to a Nasi. It applies to the Rav of a Shul and even a Rebbe. It is not enough just to teach Torah and Halacha. It is also important that the physical needs of the people are also taken care of.