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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Ruach Elohim ר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים

Updated: Oct 21, 2022

I find it difficult to transition from the last Parsha of Deuteronomy to the first parsha of Breisheet. The conclusion of the last book of the Torah takes a long time to wind its way through blessings and curses and then finally to the death of Moses. Within the space of a holiday and two aliyot to the Torah we have completed and begun the cycle again.

For the past few weeks I have been thinking of something that I learned, that the final sentences of the Torah are somehow connected to beginnings of Breisheet. I focused on the final kiss to Moses in Parshat Zot HaBeracha and then thought about the second sentence of Parshat Breisheet, which focuses on the Creation of the world through the breath or the spirit of God.* The beginning of life with a breath and the ending of life with a kiss. I like that idea and tried to write about it here.

Of course, I could never do Parshat Breisheet justice. There are just too many ideas and those ideas are so very deep that they fly above my own level of learning, but I will try here to do what I can to give shape to my own learning.

This poem is about creation. It is about the breath of God, The Creator and the breath (or spirit's) role in creation. I humbly present it to you here.

Ruach Elohim

How I would have loved

to have witnessed the act of Creation;

to have seen the dimly lit collection of

waters and skies

who stirred at the Creator's exhale as it wandered across the expanse.

Oh, to have seen the dawn of the first sunrise;

the first wispy pink of a cloud,

the shimmering reflections,

the humid air.

Oh, to see the mountains rise up from the earth.

The bold jut upwards of granite and basalt.

The earth's liquid trembling;

fiery rivers of lava cooling;

steam rising from the earth.

Oh, to view the first trees lifting themselves to their full emerald heights in the forests,

and to watch the ferns as they unfurled tightly bound fists

and the mushrooms spread their hyphae through the earth.

I wish I was there when birds first spread their wings and flew,

learning to catch the wind currents and soaring down toward the earth,

to see the spiders weave their first silky webs

and wolves learning to howl at the moon.

I would have listened as a bee discovered it could buzz

and delight as the whales sang their songs,

and celebrated when ants felt their great strength

as they lifted and dragged food toward their homes.

And how I wish I could see the first man and woman

open their eyes to the majesty around them.

Their pupils deep and black and round with awe.

I imagine the scene from far above.

The icy poles, the humid equator.

The blues of the oceans,

the brilliant green and deep brown of the earth,

white clouds spiraled above.

But it is The Creator’s breath I return to

over and over again.

Ruach Elohim.

The breath that blew on the unformed waters.

The exhale that gave life,

the force behind creation.


And one last thought;

not imagined,

but so very real.

Long after the breath of The Creator blew across the waters,

can the Creator see the fish of the oceans slowly dying?

The soil poisoned?

The trees shriveling?

The fires raging?

The glaciers retreating?

The acid rain?

The waters sullied?

Habitats shrinking?

The extinction of so many species?

Perhaps the The Creator,

Boreh HaOlam,

would not exhale,

but inhale,

a deep and long and very sad gasp

at the loss of perfection.

בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃

וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְה֑וֹם

וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃

Genesis 1:1-2*. (there are many ways to translate Ruach Elohim)

Translation 1 from the Metsudah Chumash

In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth.

The earth was unformed and desolate, and (there was) darkness over the surface of the abyss. The breath of Elohim hovered above the surface of the water.

Translation 2 from the Koren Jerusalem Bible

And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And a wind from God moved over the surface of the waters.

Translation 3 from The Five Books of Moses by Everett Fox

At the beginning*At the beginning…:This phrase, which has long been the focus of debate among grammarians, is traditionally read: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” B-R agrees, I have followed several medieval commentators, and most moderns, in my rendition, of God’s creating*creating: Indicative of God’s power and not used in reference to humans, although later in the chapter such words as “make” and “form” do appear, of the heavens and the earth*the heavens and the earth: Probably a merism—an inclusive idiom meaning “everything” or “everywhere“—such as in Hamlet’s “There are more things in heaven and earth. …”

—now the earth*now the earth … : Gen. 1 describes God’s bringing order out of chaos, not creation from nothingness. was Confusion and Chaos,*Confusion and Chaos: Previously “wild and waste.” Heb. tohu va-vohu, indicating “emptiness.” darkness over the face of Ocean,*Ocean: The primeval waters, a common (and usually divine) image in ancient Near Eastern mythology, rushing-spirit*rushing-spirit: Others, “wind.” The Hebrew word ruah can mean both “spirit” and “wind.” See Ps. 33:6. of God soaring*soaring: Or “flitting.” The image suggested by the word (see Deut. 32:11) is that of an eagle protecting its young. over the waters—

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