Photo Credit: Jewish Press

The first mention of ruach in Tanach is in the second verse of the Torah: And the earth was a formless and desolate emptiness, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the ruach of G-d was hovering over the surface of the waters (Bereishit 1:2).

Ruach is described in various contexts in Tanach as wind, spirit and breath. As the physical world had not yet been created, the first mention of ruach connotes a spiritual “desire” of Hashem (see Rashi, Radak, Ralbag). The Toldot Yitzchak beautifully explains the imagery as a bird hovers over developing eggs to assure the maximizing of the potential of her young from birth, so Hashem hovered and desired to develop the world to its maximum potential.


In describing the more detailed creation of man in chapter 2, Onkelos explains the “blowing of Hashem’s breath” (2:6) in man, as the infusion of a higher “ruach”; Man has a greater divine potential than all other creations. As we begin to recite “Mashiv haruach umorid hageshem,” let us not only think of the physical blessings of winds and rains, but of the spiritual desire to restore and live up to our divinely-infused potential.

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Rabbanit Shani Taragin is educational director of Matan-Bellows Eshkolot Tanakh teachers’ programs and Mizrachi Olami Lapidot. Shani directs, leads tours, coordinates, and teaches Tanach, Talmud, Halacha and women’s health in numerous seminaries and adult education programs in Israel and worldwide. Shani lives with her family in Alon Shvut, Gush Etzion-Israel.