Holy Spirit (Judaism)

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The Hebrew language phrase ruach ha-kodesh (Hebrew: רוח הקודש, "holy spirit" also transliterated ruaḥ ha-qodesh) is a term 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" or "the spirit of the holy place". The Hebrew terms ruaḥ qodshəka, "thy holy spirit" (רוּחַ קָדְשְׁךָ), and ruaḥ qodshō, "his holy spirit" (רוּחַ קָדְשׁ֑וֹ) also occur (when a possessive suffix is added the definite article is dropped). 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 the Most High God, over the universe or over his creatures, in given contexts.[1]

Hebrew Bible[edit]

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

The following are some examples of the word ruaḥ (in reference to God's "spirit") in the Hebrew Scriptures:

Genesis 1:2 (Schocken Bible - The Five Books of Moses)
       "Rushing-spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters."

1 Samuel 16:13 (ASV)
       "And the Spirit of Jehovah came mightily upon David from that day forward."

Psalm 143:10 (KJV)
       "Thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness."

Isaiah 44:3 (KJV)
       "I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring."

Joel 2:28 (RV)
      "I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy."

The first Hebrew Scripture use of the phrase ruaḥ 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 may be considered shituf (or "not purely monotheistic"). The term Ruaḥ HaQodesh (Holy Spirit) 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, the references to The Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit of YHVH, abound, however apart from Kabbalistic mysticism it has rejected any idea of The Eternal God as being either dualistic, tri-personal, or ontologically complex.


The concept of Shekinah ("presence") is also associated with 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[edit]


  1. ^ a b Alan Unterman and Rivka Horowitz,Ruah 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