Wednesday, April 18

Origin of the Vulcan Greeting

I never did have any takers on the challenge of the origin of Leonard Nimoy's classic Vulcan salute. Well, here's the story. Leonard Nimoy thought of it and he drew upon his Jewish heritage for the idea. They were filming the episode "Amok Time," which involved Spock returning to Vulcan and he wanted a unique greeting that wouldn't involve touching, such as handshake. As a boy, Mr. Nimoy, said he remembered attending an orthodox Jewish synagogue service, where at the end, a prayer of blessing was offered by the Kohanim up front. Worshippers are not supposed to look, but " like most Jewish children, young Leonard Nimoy could not contain his curiosity about what the Kohanim were really doing up there in front of the congregation. He (Nimoy) writes:
"The special moment when the Kohanim blessed the assembly moved me deeply, for it possessed a great sense of magic and theatricality... I had heard that this indwelling Spirit of God was too powerful, too beautiful, too awesome for any mortal to look upon and survive, and so I obediently covered my face with my hands. But of course, I had to peek." (From his autobiography, I am Spock.) [This italized portion quoted from Rabbi Yonassan Gershom.]  

What young Leonard observed was the gesture of the Kohanim. During the blessing, the Kohanim takes both hands, spreads the fingers into a V-shape, hands touching wrist to wrist, both arms outstretched toward the congregation. This gesture forms the Name of God, specifically the letter "shin," which stands for the Hebrew word "Shaddai" or "Almighty." If you've read the Old Testament, you know the Lord God Most High uses descriptive identifiers, such as Genesis 17:1 where He says, "I am El Shaddai" to Abram. "El" means god in general and by attaching "Shaddai" to it, the Lord God identifies Himself as not just any god, but the One and Only True God, The One Who is All Sufficient.  El Shaddai is perhaps better translated "The All Sufficient God," but "The Almightly" will do. Many of you may remember Christian artist, Amy Grant, doing a song called, "El Shaddai," that was quite popular some years ago?

Anyway, Nimoy remembered this experience and decided to use a short-hand of  the blessing gesture by throwing up a one-handed version for his Vulcan greeting. He probably made up the words, too: "Live long and Prosper" based somewhat on that blessing prayer. Thus, epic Star Trek history was formed. Now it's totally pop-culture and everyone, even non-Trekkie's, recognize the gesture---but I find it meaningful because it still always says "Shaddai" to me whenever I see it and I tell people, "hey, did you know you're really flashing the Name of God when you do that?" and, of course, everyone always finds that "fascinating."

 So, there you have it.
(This is a true story about where Mr. Nimoy got his Vulcan hand gesture. There's a You Tube of the late, elderly Mr. Nimoy telling this same story, which he ends by saying with a laugh, "They don't know they're blessing each other with it."

 The expression "Live Long & Eat Pizza," as I said before, is just a  humorous Trekker insider joke.

1 comment:

Reviewer11 said...

OOh pizza, I can live with that. :P

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