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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cohens and The Vulcan Hand Sign

Nadene Goldfoot                                                                

Leonard Nimroy aka Spock from the planet of Vulcan was a major character in Star Trek.  He just passed away at age 83.  Leonard was Jewish, and picked up the idea of the Vulcan hand sign when attending synagogue and seeing the priestly blessing, said by the Cohen in the synagogue.
"The text of the Priestly Blessing recited by the Kohanim, which appears verbatim in the Torah, is:
May the LORD bless you and guard you –
יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
(Yevhārēkh-khā Adhōnāy veyishmerēkhā ...)
May the LORD make His face shed light upon you and be gracious unto you –
יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
("Yāʾēr Adhōnāy pānāw ēlekhā viḥunnékkā ...)
May the LORD lift up His face unto you and give you peace –
יִשָּׂא יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם
("Yissā Adhōnāy pānāw ēlekhā viyāsēm lekhā shālōm.")"

"The Jewish priestly gesture looked sufficiently alien and mysterious, and became part of Star Trek lore. Nimoy later recorded an English translation of the blessing for Civilization IV; the recording is played when the player discovers the technology "Priesthood".
Bob Dylan's song "Forever Young" from the Planet Waves album uses the form and some content ("May God Bless and keep you...") of the Priestly Blessings.
Leonard Cohen ended his concert in Ramat GanIsrael, on 24 September 2009, with the Priestly Blessing, i.e. reciting it in Hebrew. As his name suggests, Cohen is halakhically a priest.
In the movie Deep Impact, the President of the United States, played by Morgan Freeman, recites the Priestly Blessing in a speech to the world. This speech announces to the world that a comet is approaching the world and will cause an E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event)."
Cohens live with special rules that other Jews do not have to follow.  A Cohen/Kohen, one who is a descendanat of the priestly tribe, is forbidden to come in contact with the dead.  It includes any physical contact or even being in the same room with a corpse, no matter how large the room is.  It is even prohibited to be in any openings or passages leading into other rooms.

He may enter the room when the deceased is taken out.  Cohens are not to be any closer than about 6 feet to a grave.  When the casket is being carried to burial under the open skies he says away for only about 15 inches.  These rules are dropped for the death of close relatives; wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother, unmarried sister, in order to attend the burial.  These special rules for the Kohenim only apply to the male Cohens. 

This is how we find out that Cohens in the synagogue carrying out their duties are actually descended from Aaron.  Most all carry the Cohen gene found after being tested.  It used to be that to be accepted as a Cohen, a man presented his genealogy tree to the Sanhedrin, but those days are gone and only today has genealogy made a comeback.  With computers, we can now find many ancestors and have our DNA tested.  The Cohen gene is found only through testing a male.  Though we carry our father's genes, it doesn't show up in a DNA test for women.  Most Cohens know who they are and they know the rules about entering cemeteries and the hand sign which they usually have placed on their tombstone.  This they know through oral tradition.  

To Be a Jew by Rabbi Hayim Halevy Donin

1 comment:

Nadene Goldfoot said...

From Leo Fortich: That was a great post you wrote on Leonard Nimoy. I had heard that he got the hand signal from a Jewish blessing, but I didn't know all of the details. Also, I just learned that William Shatner (Captain Kirk) is also Jewish.