Ruach • רוּחַ
Hurricane winds from Atlantic by Kim Seng via Flickr

Wind (in Hebrew ru-ach רוּחַ, “ch” as in Bach) is invisible, borne on the air, and beyond human control. It can be gentle and restorative or powerful enough to cause great destruction. And the added mystery is that within each one of us is a tiny wind—our breath—keeping us alive from moment to moment. Ruach is the power of animation, whether stirring the branches of a tree, scattering seeds, lifting flocks of birds, or enlivening a human being. In the Tanakh, Hebrew Bible, the word Ruach can have all these meanings: wind, breath and spirit. A related word, Rei-ach, means scent, which holds the key to many precious soul memories.

Join me on this path in this Gateway of Wind and Spirit to explore the rustlings of Spirit in Jewish tradition and in your life.


Mount Shasta Lavender Farms, California

The Power of Wind

Winds can be fearsome and awe-inspiring. Even today, with all our advances in science and technology, we are still at the mercy of powerful winds like hurricanes and tornadoes.

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Elijah: God is not in the wind

Jewish folklore portrays Elijah the Prophet (Eliyahu HaNavi) as a kindly old man who visits our Passover Seder to drink his cup of wine. In the Tanakh/Hebrew Bible, Elijah was known as a zealous champion of monotheism and opponent of idolatry. Since Elijah ascended to heaven without dying, he was viewed as an immortal. In Rabbinic tradition, Elijah was the most popular character, in a new guise of a folk hero who often appeared in disguise to help the poor, rescue people, and convey messages between heaven and earth.

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Elijah’s Spirit Shared

Another important story of Elijah the prophet uses the word Ruach in the sense of spirit. When Elijah ascends to the heavens in a fiery chariot, his student and disciple Elisha receives a double portion of his spirit.

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A Double Measure of Spirit

My mother Betty Hilton, of blessed memory, was a truly righteous woman who overcame challenges including early widowhood to found several spiritual groups for women. She became a leader in our local Jewish community, and ultimately served as a professional hospital chaplain in her seventies. read more…

The Holy Spirit: Ruach Ha-Kodesh

The term “Holy Spirit” is first found in the Bible and extensively developed in rabbinic understanding. The early Rabbis referred to Ruach (also spelled Ruah) Ha-Kodesh, the Holy Spirit, in two distinct ways.

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Meditative Breathing

Our breath, our inner wind, keeps us alive. I learned from Reb Zalman and from Rabbi Arthur Waskow, that the divine name YHWH represents the breath of life. The sounds of our breath are the very sounds of that sacred unpronounceable name. God is as close as our breath. Although there are many powerful breathing exercises, we don’t really need to be fancy. Breathing is itself a moment-to-moment miracle. Just to stop and breathe with awareness can instantly center us, reduce stress, and connect us to our souls.

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Blessings of Scent

This website can bring you a video or recording of wind’s image and sound, but it cannot convey the feel of the wind in your hair, scent of a pine forest in the Cascade mountains, or the heady perfume of orange blossoms and jasmine in an Israeli spring. For that you have to go outside and breathe!

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Scents Feed the Soul


Neuroscientists and psychologists tell us that the sense of smell is closely connected to memory and emotion. Scents can tie us to our traditions (the smell of challah baking or latkes frying), and to Nature and places of the soul. read more…

The Shofar: Holy Wind, Holy Sound



Breath and wind are instrumental in playing the sacred instrument, the Shofar, or ram’s horn (or sometimes an antelope horn) that is blown on Rosh Hashanah and at the end of Yom Kippur as a call to repentance, a spiritual wake-up. The word shofar is from the root of sha-per, to improve. Its hollow nature, open to the life breath of the blower, encourages us to open ourselves to the divine spirit operating through us. read more…

Sharing Circle: Wind and Spirit

Sharing the Spirit

Join the virtual Sharing Circle and comment here to share your experiences with wind, spirit, scent, or any of the other themes in this Gateway.

A few questions to get you started: read more…

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