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Why Am I Named After a Bee?

Why Am I Named After a Bee?

The Jewish name of Deborah (Devorah)

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Yes, devorah is Hebrew for “bee.” It’s also the name of two great women mentioned in the Torah. The first was the nursemaid of our matriarch Rebecca. The more famous Devorah, however, was Devorah the prophetess, who judged and taught the Jewish nation for forty years (1107–1067 BCE). For more, see The Prophetess Deborah.

What is so special about a bee that these great women should be named after it? The Midrash1 says that the Jewish people and the Torah are compared to bees in several ways. Among them:

  1. Just as bees swarm behind a leader,2 so too are the Jews led by the sages and prophets who teach and guide them.
  2. Just as the sting of the bee is bitterly painful yet its honey is sweet, so does the Torah bring bitterness for those who do not follow her ways, and sweet life to those who do.
  3. Just as the nature of a bee is to collect pollen and nectar for others,3 so do the Jews toil accumulating Torah and mitzvahs, not for our own benefit, but to give pleasure to our Father in heaven.

At the same time, writes Maharsha, the fact that devorah is also the name of a lowly insect serves as a reminder to its bearer to always remain humble.4

Footnotes
1.

Devarim Rabbah 1:6.

2.

Alternatively, the leadership mentioned in the Midrash may be a reference to the one queen bee in each hive.

3.

This is either a reference to the bees’ work on behalf of the colony as a whole, or the fact that it collects although it knows that the owners of the hive will harvest the honey.

4.

See Talmud, Megillah 14b, and Maharsha ad loc.

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson is a writer who lives with his family in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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Discussion (13)
August 8, 2016
Very limited perspective. I suggest you research "bee" online at wikipedia to just scratch the surface of the sacredness and beauty of this name! No talk there of a lowly humble insect that buzzes or is merely busy.
Susan Richey
Los Angeles
April 2, 2016
As a Melissa that also means honeybee I was pleased to read this article as I always wondered about the meaning behind it.
Melissa Catherine Barber
Altona
February 9, 2016
I'm not Jewish- I'm not even religious, but I have always been proud of my name. This meaning is very deep and I learnt a lot. Thanks.
Deborah
January 26, 2016
"bee" meaning they have practical qualities; they are less conspicuous than others in the animal kingdom; perform humble tasks to serve one higher the queen; fatal sting to some; rank highest in intelligence in animal kingdom
Deborah was like the "busy bee" unselfish/humble/untiring/ complete devotion in her service to others; practical qualities and high intelligence for the tasks she would have to perform in her service to God and others
Debra
Glen Allen
February 10, 2015
Bees remain - despite great farm science gains - a vital part of the food chain. Bees pollinate many crops. Without bees, many food crops would be far smaller.

Thus, bees are a means by which the A-mighty helps us to provide for ourselves. This is one reason why, in the morning blessings, there is one that ends, "...sheh uhsaw lee kaul tzorkey" (who provides for me all of my needs").
Jay Simkin
USA
February 3, 2013
Big and SMall
I learned this about my name when I was very young and thought, what a big name for such a small creature. But as you point out, the bee is small physically but the work he does is great therefore, We should not judge a person by the work he or she does, another lesson taught to me by my parents.
Anonymous
February 2, 2013
As a Melissa I learned my English name is Greek meaning honeybee. I was just discussing the meaning of names with various friends the other day and now ran across this article.... No coincidence.

I was particularly interested in reading that life without Torah can be bitter like the bee sting and equally sweet like it's honey when adhered to. I can say I've come to understand this on more than one level. Thanks for the article!
Anonymous
BH, MIchigan
January 31, 2013
Wow...
...I have a cousin named Devora and I just emailed her a moment ago. And then I found this on Chabad.org....
Sarah Rivka :)
Cincinnati, OH
January 29, 2013
beehaved
What more could a people want- a land of both milk and honey, and no-one named "miss Cow"!!!!
Anonymous
Kanata
January 28, 2013
Very informative
Rabbi Davidson always has great pearls of wisdom. Please share more of his articles. Thanks.
Anonymous
NYC