This week’s Parashah begins with Hashem telling the Jews to adhere to the commandments which will be explained to them. Hashem explicitly states not to curse ones parents, not to inflict pain upon a friend and the responsibility to ensure that ones’ animals don’t cause destruction. These laws immediately follow the laws listed at the end of Parashat Yitro, where the Jewish people are commanded to build a mizbeach for Hashem. Rashi (Shemot 21:1 s.v. VeEilah HaMishpatim) asks why it was necessary to juxtapose the laws of how a person should act to the creation of Hashem’s Mizbei’ach? Rashi explains that the juxtaposition of these two sections is foreshadowing the near future; the Sanhedrin, which administers justice and keeps peace between fellow men, will be placed right next to the Mizbei’ach, and by default, the entire Beit HaMikdash.
What about the Sanhedrin and Beit HaMikdash connect the two? What is the commonality between these two institutions that makes it so vital that they be placed next to each other? The Mishnah (Avot 3:14) quotes Rabi Akiva: “Chaviv Adam Shenivrah BeTzelem,” “A man is precious since he is created in the image of God.” Hashem created us in His image because he always wants us to connect with Him and turn towards Him to know how to behave. We are so precious to him because it is as if we are his students who admire their teacher for advice. The Torah is a blueprint for living a peaceful life as a member of society. Nothing makes Hashem happier than seeing his children living among each other in peace and harmony, because this is His essence and the purpose of the TORAH.
Even when His children anger Him, Hashem guides his anger towards something else. Tosafot (Kiddushin 31b s.v. Istay’a Milteih) wonder why the Perek of Tehillim “Mizmor LeAsaf” (Tehillim 79) wasn’t called “Kinah LeAsaf” when the entire Mizmor focuses on the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash. Tosafot explain that although this Perek is about the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, it is still a beautiful song, since Hashem saved the Jews by channeling his anger towards the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash and not the Jewish people. The reason for this was because a structure is never permanent and can always be rebuilt. Hashem had faith in His children to stand back up, unite, and reconnect themselves with Hashem, their Creator. If Hashem destroyed us, he would have to rebuild of from scratch. Hashem graciously destroyed our Beit HaMikdash and gave us a chance to do Teshuvah.
The purpose of the Sanhedrin is to maintain law and order within the land and society. When the Sanhedrin makes a verdict, it cannot be overruled. The reason for this is because they are working within the parameters of the ideals and values of Hashem’s Torah and we have to honor and accept them. If we don’t, then there will be no order to the community and man won’t turn to Hashem to discover how to behave and create healthy relationships with their fellow man. Only once the Jewish people live among each other as one will Hashem’s Shechinah rest upon us, and the connection between man and God will be established. By placing building which houses the Sanhedrin adjacent to the one which houses Hashem, we are taught that these two concepts go hand and hand; we must live by the Torah in order to properly and most effectively live with fellow man.