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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 member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
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Discussion (8)
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
January 28, 2013
Go Devorah!
My name is devorah too :) Nice to hear some thought on my name :)
Anonymous
Mill Valley
February 4, 2010
the humble bumble bee
It's a beautiful name. For me, there was always something deeply wonderful about bees and I read Maeterlinck's The Children's Life of the Bee with interest and treasured this book. We do pun with the word "be" itself, because aurally the two words, "be" and "bee" are synonymous. To read about the bee, its life, about the way bees work together to make the honey, the organization, the communications among bees, is to be humbled in another way.

There are deep ongoing metaphoric connects. Things we can learn from these insects, and a story that is so much about the sting and the honey, being also about our very lives.
Ruth Housman
marshfield hills, ma
February 1, 2010
my name is devora, so this is especially nice 4 me! :)
devora
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