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Why Am I Named After a Bee?

Why Am I Named After a Bee?

The Jewish name of Deborah (Devorah)


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


Devarim Rabbah 1:6.


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


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.


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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Deborah Spring November 19, 2017

It also means dew of the morning, herbs and a source of light. A pleasant name and both women who had it in the Bible were faithful to those they served . Reply

Deborah Ford Pennsylvania February 16, 2017

I actually was in search of family tree. My grandfathers last name Davidson died when my mother was young I have no history of our lineage and so decided to see what my name meant . Thank you so much for your help Reply

Susan Richey Los Angeles 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. Reply

Melissa Catherine Barber Altona 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. Reply

Deborah 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. Reply

Debra Glen Allen 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 Reply

Jay Simkin USA 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"). Reply

Anonymous 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. Reply

Anonymous BH, MIchigan 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! Reply

Sarah Rivka :) Cincinnati, OH January 31, 2013

Wow... ...I have a cousin named Devora and I just emailed her a moment ago. And then I found this on Reply

Anonymous Kanata January 29, 2013

beehaved What more could a people want- a land of both milk and honey, and no-one named "miss Cow"!!!! Reply

Anonymous NYC January 28, 2013

Very informative Rabbi Davidson always has great pearls of wisdom. Please share more of his articles. Thanks. Reply

Anonymous Mill Valley January 28, 2013

Go Devorah! My name is devorah too :) Nice to hear some thought on my name :) Reply

Ruth Housman marshfield hills, ma 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. Reply

devora February 1, 2010

my name is devora, so this is especially nice 4 me! :) Reply

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