Reflections from a Jewish Beekeeper

By: Sabrina Malach
Shoresh’s Director of Community Engagement and Resident Beekeeper at Bela Farm

As the resident beekeeper at Bela Farm, I have had the great privilege and honour to collaborate with the thousands of honey bees that call Bela Farm home. Learning to keep bees has given me a unique and meaningful opportunity to integrate my Jewish values and my environmental ethics.

Observing my girls in action at Bela Farm.

Observing my girls in action at Bela Farm.

Here are some lessons I have gleaned from my experiences observing and collaborating with Apis mellifera, the western honey bee:

  • Awareness: Bees are hyper-aware of their surroundings. In order to survive, they need to know where their food (flowers), water and other resources are in proximity to their hive. From them, I have learned the importance of cultivating awareness of our surrounding environment so we can thrive in it, beautify it and make our micro-worlds healthy and productive.
  • Appreciation: Bees make me say “wow” all the time. I am in awe of their complex social structures, their highly evolved communication skills,  their honey-making magic capabilities, their incredible work ethic and their ability to manufacture beeswax and then transform it into perfect, 6-sided,  hexagonal combs. Through my regular “wow” moments, I have learned to cultivate a deep sense of awe and wonder for the great mystery of life AKA HaShem. The bees inspire me to see the profound wisdom of the divine in the natural world.

Beeswax is manufactured by worker bees’ abdominal glands. It is excreted and discarded as flakes and transformed into hexagonal cells used for honey-storage and nurseries for bee larvae. Honeycomb is a triumph of engineering consisting of hexagon shaped cylinders that fit naturally side-by-side. It has been proven that making the cells into hexagons is the most efficient shape for using the smallest possible amount of wax to contain the highest volume of honey. It has also been shown to be one of the strongest possible shapes while using the least amount of material. WOW!

  • Interconnectedness: Through pollination, honey bees enable the majority of the world’s flowering plants to reproduce. Essentially, bees and flowers regularly have inter-species sex resulting in fruits, vegetables. In observing pollination, I see the essence of the shema, that all of life is deeply connected and unified and that HaShem is one and is in everything.
Honey bee pollinated Common Milkweed, an essential flowering plant for Monarch butterflies.

Honey bee pollinated Common Milkweed, an essential flowering plant for Monarch butterflies.

  • Work Together Towards a Common Purpose: Bees collaborate with each other and the rest of nature to make the world beautiful, fruitful and filled with sweetness and light. Through clear communication and collaboration, we can work together and steward ourselves and this planet back into balance and health.
Female guard bees surround and protect the queen, the only fertile bee in the hive and the mother of all.

Female guard bees surround and protect the queen, the only fertile bee in the hive and the mother of all.

  • Live Symbiotically With Nature: Everything that bees do from pollination to gathering nectar for honey benefits and nurtures the environment. I have learned from them that it is possible for human beings to interact with the environment in a helpful way. We don’t need to dominate and destroy. We can enhance, improve and be responsible stewards of creation as we are commanded to in Sefer Bereshit 2:15, where G!d puts Adam, the first human being, in the Garden of Eden and commands Adam “l’ovdah u’l’shomrah,” to work and to protect the land. 

At Shoresh, we seek to always balance working the earth and protecting the earth. I am so grateful to my dear friends and teachers, the bees, as they teach me how to be a better human. Thank you for joining us on the journey.

To experience our bees first-hand, join us at Sweetness and Light: Bela’s Bees Honey and Wax Harvest Workshop at Bela Farm or purchase a jar of our limited edition honey in time for Rosh Hashana. Contact me for details at

© 2018 Shoresh.