Sefer Bamidbar opens with names and numbers, a theme that continues throughout the book; hence its name, Chumash Pekudim, the book of counting. Apparently, names are much more than mere identifiers. A name represents the essence of a person. "In the merit of not changing our names were we redeemed from Egypt", claims the Midrash.
Sefer Bamidbar can be viewed as a book of missed opportunities. A small group of Jewish slaves—the midrash claims no more than one in five—showed great faith and resolve as they marched through a barren desert to hear the word of G-d. Under the leadership of Moshe, Miriam and Aharon, they were preparing to enter the land of Israel and thus Sefer Bamidbar opens with the counting of the soldiers who would triumphantly conquer the land.
In order to be effective, leaders must be sensitive to the feelings and concerns of the general populace. It is not only fact, but also perception that matters. Leaders must have higher ethical standards, and they must also be seen by the public in this light. Any perception (especially if it's true!) that they are above the law renders their moral leadership compromised.
The desert conjures up images of heat, hunger, thirst, wastelands and wandering, certainly not a place to stage important events. Yet it was in the desert that the Torah was given. The connection between the receiving of the Torah and the desert is underscored by the fact that we always begin sefer Bamidbar—which details the wandering of the Jews in the desert—on the Shabbat preceding Shavuot. Why was such an inauspicious place chosen as the location for history’s most important moment?