O Youthful, Beautiful, and Charismatic One!
Fans of the original Star Trek TV show likely won’t forget the Vulcan hand sign of the palm held up, pointer and middle finger spread one way, the ring finger and pinkie spread the other. In addition to “Live Long and Prosper,” this has a powerful secret subtext. Just so:
From the tombstone of Daniel Rothschild, 1829- 1881,
Cemetery of Congregation Beth Abraham-Jacob, Albany, New York.
So now, let me let you in on a lovely open secret.
Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock, created the Vulcan hand sign from an ancient Jewish one learned from his Ukrainian Jewish ancestors.
The Washington Post brought the scoop to the wide world shortly after Nimoy died (after a long and prosperous life). In case you missed it let me let you in on the Secret.
“This is the shape of the letter shin,” Nimoy said in the 2013 interview, making the famous “V” gesture. The Hebrew letter shin, he noted, is the first letter in several Hebrew words, including Shaddai (a name for God), Shalom (the word for hello, goodbye and peace) and Shekhinah, which he defined as “the feminine aspect of God who supposedly was created to live among humans.”
The Shekhinah, Nimoy has said, was also the name of the prayer he participated in as a boy that inspired the salute. The prayer, meant to bless the congregation, is named after the feminine aspect of God, Nimoy explained in a 2012 post on the “Star Trek” site. “The light from this Deity could be very damaging. So we are told to protect ourselves by closing our eyes,” he wrote in the blog.
“They get their tallits over their heads, and they start this chanting,” Nimoy says in the 2013 interview, “And my father said to me, ‘don’t look’.” At first he obliged, but what he could hear intrigued him. “I thought, ‘something major is happening here.’ So I peeked. . And I saw them with their hands stuck out from beneath the tallit like this,” Nimoy said, showing the “V” with both his hands. “I had no idea what was going on, but the sound of it and the look of it was magical.”
After witnessing the ritual all those years ago, Nimoy practiced making the “V” with his fingers as a child. He “never dreamed” he would one day make the gesture so publicly and repeatedly as an adult.
That was, he said, until a “Star Trek” script required his character Spock to go home to Vulcan. “It was the first time we’d seen other Vulcans, other people of my race, so I was hoping to find some touching that could help develop the Vulcan sociology,” Nimoy said.
“I think we should have some special greeting that Vulcans do,” Nimoy recalled saying. He suggested the prayer gesture from his childhood.
“Boy,” he said, “that just took off. It just touched a magic chord.
He noted that “most people to this day still don’t know” the history of the greeting, although he repeatedly and enthusiastically shared its origin.
Laughing, Nimoy revealed the best part of it all: “People don’t realize they’re blessing each other with this!”
So, from me to you: Live Long and Prosper!
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Now you can easily bless others with the ancient Hebrew sign for blessing, as channeled to us by Leonard Nimoy through Star Trek:
The magic chord of “Live Long and Prosper.”