The Divine Inspiration Behind a Famous Salute

Leonard Nimoy explains how Star Trek’s "Live Long and Prosper" came to be.

by - Posted on May 22, 2014

Spock from the series "Star Trek" doing the "Live Long and Prosper" salute

You don’t have to be a sci-fi fan to recognize the Vulcan salute from Star Trek: a famously difficult gesture made by raising your hand to form a “V” between your ring and middle finger, with the thumb extended out, accompanied by the phrase, “Live Long and Prosper.”

Actor Leonard Nimoy is credited with developing the greeting for his character, Spock. But its true origin came from a Jewish ritual that the actor witnessed as a boy:

The blessing Nimoy talks about is performed by a rabbi for people observing special occasions. The rabbi makes the “Vulcan” gesture with two hands, to form a Shin, the Hebrew letter that begins the word Shaddai, or “Almighty God.”

The prayer the rabbi says is this:

May the Lord bless you and guard you
יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
("Yebhārēkh-khā Adhōnāy weyishmerēkhā...)
May the Lord make his face shed light upon you and be gracious unto you
יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
("Yāʾēr Adhōnāy pānāw ēlekhā wiḥunnékkā...)
May the Lord lift up his face unto you and give you peace.

Live long and prosper indeed. It's easy to see how well that famous Trekkie phrase mirrors the ancient benediction.

What if Nimoy hadn’t stolen a peek at the rabbi? The rabbi hadn’t intended to inspire a fictional TV show and movie franchise. But the blessing did, in fact, do its job. It blessed young Leonard Nimoy with his character’s most memorable salutation.        

Has a religious ritual inspired your creativity? What did you invent or develop based on something you witnessed at a service? Share your stories with us!

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