Esther 1:3, Question 3. Why are ministers and servants mentioned together?

The Talmud (Brachos 34b) relates the story of how Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, leading scholar of his time, turned to another scholar – Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa – to pray for his own ailing son. When his wife later asked him if Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa was greater than he, himself, Rabbi Yochanan ben Dosa responded that “Chanina ben Dosa is like an “eved” (“servant”) before the King, whereas I am like a “sar” (“minister”) before the king. The Vilna Gaon (in his pshat commentary) demonstrates from this story that “eved” connotes an official of a king who is more often in court and is therefore more familiar – much like a congressperson in the United States, whereas a “sar” is more of a bureaucrat responsible for rules and law in more distant lands with rare personal interaction with the crown – much like a state governor in the United States. They are mentioned together to demonstrate that Achashverosh entertained both classes of officials.


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