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.
Elijah took his mantle, and rolling it up, struck the waters, and they parted to one side and to the other, so that the two went over dry ground.As they were crossing, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken away from you.” And Elisha said, “I beg you, let a double portion of your spirit (ruach) be upon me.”
And he said, “You have asked a difficult thing; nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so to you; but if not, it shall not be so.”And it came to pass, as they were walking and talking, that, behold, there appeared a fiery chariot with horses suddenly appeared and separated one from the other; and Elijah went up by a storm to heaven.
Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father! Israel’s chariots and horsemen!”When he could no longer see him, he grasped his garments and tore them in two.
He picked up mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan. And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and struck the waters, and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” When he also had struck the waters, they parted to one side and to the other; and Elisha went over. When the disciples of the prophets who were in Jericho saw him, they exclaimed, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha!” And they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him.
Consider and Comment: What does it mean to share the spirit? The story of Elisha receiving a double measure of Elijah’s spirit recalls an earlier story in of Numbers 11, in which God takes some of the Ruach(spirit) that rests upon Moses and shares it with seventy elders who are suddenly imbued with the ability to prophesy. Moses is openly pleased that others have received the gift of the spirit and expresses his desire that all God’s people could be prophets! Sharing the spirit is like the image of someone lighting a candle, spreading the light to others without diminishing his own.
My teacher Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center has written about bringing Elijah the Prophet into our Passover Seder and what that means today in an age of Climate Change. I encourage people to read his powerful Devar Torah (Word of Torah) and support his work: https://theshalomcenter.org/bringing-elijah-truly-passover-seder