Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Vulcan Salute

So, in the previous post where I talked about being the lay leader for Sabbath services at Congregation Adas Emuno this past Friday (A Christmas Shabbat), I mentioned how Bob Dylan's lyrics to the song "Forever Young" is based on the priestly benediction, and the subject of that blessing  came up recently in an entirely different context that I thought I'd bring up here.  

It was after I posted a poem on my MySpace blog, a humorous one with a science fiction theme, that one of the comments I received mentioned the Vulcan salute (a form of nonverbal communication, of the kinesic variety, subcategory of emblems, for those familar with the subject).   Here's a classic image of Mr. Spock, from the original Star Trek television series, delivering the gesture:

You may be interested, and quite possibly surprised to learn that the Vulcan Salute has its own wikipedia entry too! It's true! You don't have to consult Wikipedia, though, as the story is pretty well known that Leonard Nimoy (the actor who plays Mr. Spock, of course), originated the gesture based on his experiences as a child, being taken to Orthodox Jewish prayer services.   This is what I explained in my response to the comment.

I went on to note that the hand gesture is used when giving the priestly blessing--May the Lord bless you and keep you: May the Lord make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (traditional translation, from Numbers 6:24).  It is attributed to Aaron, brother of Moses, whose descendants, the House of Aaron, became the Priests of ancient Israel and the Temple in Jerusalem.

Here's a traditional image depicting the priestly blessing:

The gesture is actually difficult for some individuals to make, while others can do it easily, so it represents something of a genetic marker, perhaps one that was common for descendants of Aaron.  I went on, in my reply, to note that the Hebrew word for Priest is Cohen, so everyone with that last name (or a variation thereof) is considered a Priest, and can give the blessing in Orthodox tradition.  That includes Leonard Cohen, the Canadian poet, songwriter, and singer who is very popular in MySpace poetry circles, and indeed, very popular in general.  Cohen is no doubt familiar with the gesture, and may even have delivered it himself.

 Well, he's almost making the gesture in this picture, but not exactly, I know.  But I did think it interesting to juxtapose the two Leonards:

Separated at birth?  Genetic markers?  Who's to say?  All that I can say is, Live long and prosper!  That's what Vulcans say when they make with the Vulcan salute, to which the response is, Peace and long life!  Or simply, Shalom!

Addendum.  Thanks to my anonymous commenter for pointing out the following blog post that also discussed Leonard Cohen and the priestly blessing:  The Legacy Of Leonard Cohen's Tel Aviv Priestly Blessing Plus A New Video Of The Event.  It's a good one, so go take a look.   It's about Cohen delivering the benediction at a recent concert in Israel, and here's a photo:

 And better yet, here's a video clip of Cohen delivering the blessing after sharing a message of peace!



Anonymous said...

HeckOfAGuy in his blog discusses Leonard Cohen's priestly blessing at the end of his concert in Israel this past summer. There is a also a youtube of Cohen delivering the blessing in Hebrew.

Lance Strate said...

Thanks, I'm going to add this to the post!