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