Who knows Ruach?

רוח - מי יודע?‏

The traditional and therefore ubiquitous Jewish camp! chant@

Call: We've got Ruach, yes we do! We've got Ruach, how 'bout you?
Response: We've got Ruach, yes we do! We've got Ruach, how 'bout you?
Repeated ad raucedinem

implies an obvious presupposition that there is a Jewish significance to be found in the identification of people or groups thereof who have attained the quality of "got Ruach." This quality presumably refers to a deep understanding of the concept of Ruach, as the chant directly echoes the question expressed in less "hip"# language in Ecclesiastes 3:21:

?מִי יוֹדֵעַ רוּחַ

Who knoweth Ruach?

Thus, we come to the following avenues for investigation:

  • What is this "Ruach" so emphatically to which this chant refers?

  • What is the significance of those who have "got Ruach," as sought in Ecclesiastes and in this traditional chant?

  • Who, indeed, has got Ruach? How 'bout# you?

!) And also, to the surprised observations in recent years of this observer, school
@) Trigger warning: Noisy children
#) This observer apologizes to the reader for this indulgence in contemporary colloquialism, excusing it in the spirit of the impending holiday and the subject matter at hand.

This question is Purim Torah and is not intended to be taken completely seriously. See the Purim Torah policy.


Many scholars believe that this chant originated in the desert, when Eldad and Meidad argued with the other seventy elders about who had ruach. However, based on the third-person paraphrase that the Torah gives (Numbers 11:26), we can reconstruct their chant:

וַתָּ֧נַח עֲלֵהֶ֣ם הָר֗וּחַ

Ruach has rested upon us, yes it did! Ruach has rested upon us, how 'bout you?$

And Moses' response:

וּמִ֨י יִתֵּ֜ן כָּל־עַ֤ם יְהוָה֙ נְבִיאִ֔ים כִּֽי־יִתֵּ֧ן יְהוָ֛ה אֶת־רוּח֖וֹ עֲלֵיהֶֽם

Would that God would give his ruach upon all of the nation of God, would that he would! Would that he would give his ruach upon all of the nation of God, how 'bout you?

The chant was passed from generation to generation until the reign of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, when Isaiah (61:1) and Micah (3:8) also engaged in the chant with each other:

ר֛וּחַ אֲדֹנָ֥י יְהוִ֖ה עָלָ֑י יַ֡עַן מָשַׁח֩ יְהוָ֨ה אֹתִ֜י לְבַשֵּׂ֣ר עֲנָוִ֗ים שְׁלָחַ֨נִי֙ לַֽחֲבֹ֣שׁ לְנִשְׁבְּרֵי־לֵ֔ב לִקְרֹ֤א לִשְׁבוּיִם֙ דְּר֔וֹר וְלַֽאֲסוּרִ֖ים פְּקַח־קֽוֹחַ

The ruach of my Lord God is upon me, yes it is! The ruach of my Lord God is upon me because God anointed me to announce to the humble, sent me to bandage the broken of heart, to call freedom to captives, and opening up to the bound,% how 'bout you?

To which Micah responded:

וְאוּלָ֗ם אָֽנֹכִ֞י מָלֵ֤אתִי כֹ֨חַ֙ אֶת־ר֣וּחַ יְהוָ֔ה וּמִשְׁפָּ֖ט וּגְבוּרָ֑ה

Well, I am full of the strength of God's ruach and judgment and strength, yes I am! I am full of the strength of God's ruach and judgment and strength, how 'bout you?

Thus we see that chants about ruach have existed since we first became a nation, and have evolved ever since. They probably first came about after the Exodus. In Egypt, the Children of Israel suffered from קֹּצֶר רוּחַ, lack of ruach (Exodus 6:9). But ever since God blew his ruach (נָשַׁפְתָּ בְרוּחֲךָ֖) at the splitting of the sea, the Israelites were proud of their salvation and their attainment of ruach. Of course, being Jews, they choose to demonstrate this by arguing.

$) The phrases "yes it did" and "how 'bout you" are reconstructed from the descendant chants for complex metrical reasons.

%) Isaiah's chant continues for another two verses. Opinions differ regarding whether he said all of them at once, or if he alternated between the different reasons. Seeing as he managed to write 66 chapters, the first possibility is not to be discounted.


The chant is primarily used at gatherings such as stadiums, parks, trips, etc. While the camps justify these outings as necessary for the well-being of the campers, they still know that this is something that God does not really approve of. (See e.g. Maharsha Shabbos 119b.) Therefore whenever these events take place, the camps issue a disclaimer that God is not with them. This is done by declaring that they have ruach, because as we know from Kings 19:11 God is not present in ruach ('לא ברוח ה).


Camp chants evolve; I'm glad to take this opportunity to provide you with original words of this one, as written by the great kabbalist and liturgical poet Rav Yisrael Gershovitz:

I've got Nefesh!
I've got Ruach!
I've got Nshama!
Who could ask for anything more?

We all, then, have Ruach. We also have Nefesh, which is also called Ruach Habhamis, animalistic Ruach, and Nshama, the highest of all. The verse from Ecclesiastes (that you quoted in part) details:

מִי יוֹדֵעַ רוּחַ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם הָעֹלָה הִיא לְמָעְלָה וְרוּחַ הַבְּהֵמָה הַיֹּרֶדֶת הִיא לְמַטָּה לָאָרֶץ.‏‏

Who knows Ruach of people? It rises up. And animalistic Ruach? It sinks to earth.

On the sabbath, we have an extra Nshama, two in all; the extra one is also called Shabas Malksa, the sabbath queen. In honor of this, Rav Yisrael wrote an additional chant for the sabbath:

Shabas, you is my queen now.
You is, you is!
And I must laugh and sing and dance as two instead of one.…


As always, to fully understand a reference in Torah, we must see where it first appears in Tanach. The very first instance of Ruach in Tanach is of course in Genesis 2:7 (Mechon Mamre version):

וַעֲנָנָא הֲוָה סָלֵיק מִן אַרְעָא וּמַשְׁקֵי יָת כָּל אַפֵּי אֲדַמְתָּא. וּבְרָא ה׳ א׳ יָת אָדָם עַפְרָא מִן אַרְעָא וּנְפַח בְּאַפּוֹהִי נִשְׁמְתָא דְּחַיֵּי וַהֲוָת בְּאָדָם לְרוּחַ מְמַלְּלָא. וּנְצַב ה׳ א׳ גִּנְּתָא בְּעֵדֶן מִלְּקַדְמִין וְאַשְׁרִי תַּמָּן יָת אָדָם דִּבְרָא.‏

A cloud rose from the ground and watered the entire face of the earth. God created the person [of] dust from the ground. He breathed into his nose a spirit of life. It was a speaking Ruach in the person. God established a garden in Eden to the east. He settled there the person that he had created.

So we see that this person with a speaking Ruach was none other than Candide who, as we know, settled to tend the garden after traveling the world and becoming disillusioned with optimism. Ruach, then, is a Ruach of disillusionment, and the chanting children are insisting on how disillusioned they are from optimism and wondering whether their peers are, too.

(The chanting, and its inordinate repetitiveness and raucousness, stem from the description of the Ruach as a "speaking Ruach".)

This loss of optimism is further exemplified by what you quoted in part from Ecclesiastes:

מִי יוֹדֵעַ רוּחַ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם הָעֹלָה הִיא לְמָעְלָה וְרוּחַ הַבְּהֵמָה הַיֹּרֶדֶת הִיא לְמַטָּה לָאָרֶץ.‏

Who knows Ruach! People, if they are elevated, they embezzle. And Ruach! An animal, if it goes down [to the watering hole], it's to [nothing but] sticks on the ground.

Candide's got Ruach. How 'bout you?

  • <Serious hat> Come to think of it, I'll bet this is not the first time scholars have related Candide to (lehavdil) Kohelet.
    – Isaac Moses
    Feb 19 '18 at 18:44

The "Ruach" chant is an excellent re-enactment of Yechezkel's(Ezekiel) actions to bring life to the dry bones (See Yechezkel ch. 37.)

G-d asks Yechezkel to prophesy towards the Ruach to bring life to the dry bones. He does that, and a huge army of people stood before him.

So, this Ruach chant is a way to revive life into an otherwise bunch of boring "dead" kids.

The counselors have Ruach, initially. When he says the initial chant, it's similar to Yechezkel passing his ruach to the dead bones. Now, the kids have ruach, too, and they become alove.


As always, to fully understand a reference in Torah, we must see the last time it appears in Tanach. The very last instance of Ruach in Tanach is in Ⅱ Chronicles 36:22:

העיר ה׳ את רוח כורש מלך פרס ויעבר קול בכל מלכותו וגם במכתב לאמר

God awoke the leek Ruach of the king of Persia, who passed it [=the leek] noisily through his entire kingdom and also with sound in Mehtab.

(The king of Persia, as we know, ruled as far as India. Mehtab was just past the border.)

In short, when your campers start singing this, they're preparing for a noisy food fight. As the verse you quote in part from Ecclesiastes says:

מִי יוֹדֵעַ רוּחַ בְּנֵי הָאָדָם הָעֹלָה הִיא לְמָעְלָה

Who knows Ruach of people, who throw it upward?

Get out of there fast, or, failing that, duck and cover.

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