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    Life of the spirit – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. What does the Bible mean when it says, “The spirit of God hovered over the surface of the waters” (Gen. 1:2)?

    ocean sea waterA. Some non-Jewish scholars think that ru’ach is Spirit, with a capital S.

    They believe the text is saying that through the working of the Divine Spirit the emptiness of the world gave way to an ordered creation (e.g. Anthony Phillips, Lower than the Angels: Questions Raised by Genesis 1-11, 1983).

    Jewish commentators tend to translate ru’ach literally as wind. Ibn Ezra says that by means of the wind, God made the waters dry up and the land appear.

    Rashi takes ru’ach to mean breath. He says the Throne of Glory was suspended above the waters, held there by the breath of God.

    This does not indicate that God really has breath; He has no physical characteristics. The word “breath” is metaphorical.

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