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Holy Spirit (Judaism)

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Title: Holy Spirit (Judaism)  
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Subject: Holy Spirit, Biblical cosmology, Phinehas ben Jair, Three Oaths, Holy Spirit (Christianity)
Collection: Hebrew Bible Topics, Hebrew Words and Phrases in the Hebrew Bible, Holy Spirit
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Holy Spirit (Judaism)

The Holy Spirit in Judaism generally refers to the divine aspect of prophecy and wisdom. It also refers to the divine force, quality, and influence of God Most High (Hebrew El Elyon) over the universe or over God's creatures, in given contexts.[1]

The Hebrew language phrase ruach ha-kodesh (Hebrew: רוח הקודש, "holy spirit" also transliterated ruaḥ ha-qodesh) is used in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh) and Jewish writings to refer to the spirit of YHWH (רוח יהוה). It literally means "the spirit of holiness." The Hebrew terms ruacḥ qodshekha, "thy holy spirit" (רוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ), and ruacḥ qodshō, "his holy spirit" (רוּחַ קָדְשׁ֑וֹ) also occur. (When a possessive suffix is added the definite article is dropped.)


  • Hebrew Bible 1
  • Talmud 2
  • Shekinah 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5

Hebrew Bible

The term "ruacḥ haqodesh" does not occur in the Torah, but occurs once in Psalm 51:11 and twice in the Book of Isaiah (Isaiah 63:10,11) with a possessive suffix. Those are the only three times that the phrase "holy spirit" is used in the Hebrew Scriptures, although ruach (רוח, literally "breath" or "wind") in various combinations with "God" is used often, and qodesh ("holiness") is also used often. Ruacḥ, much like the English word breath, can mean either wind or some invisible moving force ("spirit").

The first Hebrew Scripture use of the phrase ruacḥ haqodesh (but in a modified form as explained above) in Psalm 51 contains a triple parallelism:

10 "Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit (רוּחַ נָכֹון) within me."
11 "Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit (רוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ) from me."
12 "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with a (רוּחַ נְדִיבָה) free spirit."[2]

The other two times that the expression occurs, in Isaiah 63 (R.V.), read:

10 "But they rebelled, and grieved his holy spirit (רוּחַ קָדְשׁ֑וֹ); therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them."
11 "Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people, saying, Where is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? where is he who put his holy spirit (רוּחַ קָדְשֽׁוֹ) in the midst of them?"


The term is discussed in the Babylonian Talmud, Makkot 23b and elsewhere. Rabbinical use is discussed by Joseph Jacobs and Ludwig Blau in the article "Holy Spirit" in the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1911.[3]

In Judaism, God is One; the idea of God as a duality or trinity is considered shituf (or "not purely monotheistic"). The term ruacḥ haQodesh is found frequently in Talmudic and Midrashic literature. In some cases it signifies prophetic inspiration, while in others it is used as a hypostatization or a metonym for God.[1] The rabbinical understanding of the Holy Spirit has a certain degree of personification, but it remains, "a quality belonging to God, one of his attributes".[4]

In Rabbinic Judaism references to the spirit of God abound, however apart from Kabbalistic mysticism it has rejected any idea of God as being either dualistic, tri-personal, or ontologically complex.


The concept of shekhinah ("presence") is also associated with the Holy Spirit in Jewish tradition, such as in Yiddish song: Vel ich, sh'chine tsu dir kummen "Will I, Shekinah, to you come".[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b Alan Unterman and Rivka Horowitz,Ruach ha-Kodesh, Encyclopedia Judaica (CD-ROM Edition, Jerusalem: Judaica Multimedia/Keter, 1997).
  2. ^ John R. Levison The Spirit in First-Century Judaism 2002 p65 "Only Psalm 51, which contains no less than four occurrences of the word, im, permits the identification of the holy spirit with the human spirit.13 Three references occur in close succession in this psalm (51:10-12; MT 51:12-14):"
  3. ^ Article Jacobs J. Jewish Encyclopedia: Holy Spirit 1911
  4. ^ Joseph Abelson,The Immanence of God in Rabbinical Literature (London:Macmillan and Co., 1912).
  5. ^ Ruth Rubin Voices of a people: the story of Yiddish folksong p234
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