Saturday, February 28, 2015

Leonard Nimoy, the Vulcan Salute, Jewish Priestly Blessing and Shefa Tal

I was sad to hear that Leonard Nimoy died. Although he wrestled with the fact that people saw him only as Spock, I believe that it was Nimoy's vital human spirit that was shining through and illuminated the character of Spock. This is why I discovered a childhood hero in Spock.

Do you know the origin of the Vulcan salute invented by Leonard Nimoy? Consider first that he was born in the West End of Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Yiddish-speaking Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Iziaslav, Soviet Union (now Ukraine).

Nimoy witnessed the Priestly Blessing, Birkat Kohanim (Raising of the Hands) when he was a young boy. At the time Nimoy did fully understand what he saw, but the hand gestures (Shefa Tal) used during the blessing stuck in his memory. It is the Shefa Tal that he remembered years later when he came up with the idea for a Vulcan salute. 

I first came across the Priestly Blessing and the Shefa Tal years ago in my research on Kabbalah, the Tetragrammaton and Shekinah.

Look closely at the drawing of the Shefa Tal below. Do you see the four letters written across the wrists of the two hands? Do you recognize these four letters as the Tetragrammaton?

Leonard Nimoy on the Jewish Story Behind the Vulcan Salute:

YouTube Video Interview of Nimoy (in only 5 min. Nimoy tells the entire story):
Live Long and Prosper: The Jewish Story Behind Spock, Leonard Nimoy's Star Trek Character

YouTube Video:
Priestly Blessing, Birkat Kohanim, Raising of the Hands: Shefa Tal

Wiki article Priestly Blessing (excellent general information):

Wiki article Vulcan Salute:

In his autobiography I Am Not Spock, Nimoy wrote that he based it on the Priestly Blessing performed by Jewish Kohanim with both hands, thumb to thumb in this same position, representing the Hebrew letter Shin (ש), which has three upward strokes similar to the position of the thumb and fingers in the salute. The letter Shin here stands for El Shaddai, meaning "Almighty (God)", as well as for Shekinah and Shalom. Nimoy wrote that when he was a child, his grandfather took him to an Orthodox synagogue, where he saw the blessing performed and was impressed by it.

The symbol became so well-known that in June 2014 it was added to version 7 of the Unicode standard as U+1F596 (raised hand with part between middle and ring fingers), and the White House referenced it directly in its statement on Leonard Nimoy's death, calling it "the universal sign for 'Live long and prosper.'" NASA astronaut Terry W. Virts posted the salute without commentary on his Twitter feed from the International Space Station with the Earth as the background. 

Washington Post article The touching tribute to Leonard Nimoy from space:

On Saturday, American astronaut Terry Virts tweeted this photo while aboard the International Space Station:

The simple Vulcan salute, flashed back at earth from so many miles away, speaks to the impact that Nimoy and "Star Trek" had on American space exploration.

"Leonard Nimoy was an inspiration to multiple generations of engineers, scientists, astronauts, and other space explorers," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement. "As Mr. Spock, he made science and technology important to the story, while never failing to show, by example, that it is the people around us who matter most. NASA was fortunate to have him as a friend and a colleague."

Rest In Peace Leonard Nimoy

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