Live Long and Prosper: The Spirituality of Star Trek

On Christmas night I was looking for something to watch.  I had my fill of Christmas movies, which seem to start earlier and earlier each year, so I needed something different.  I was cruising through Netflix, and I came across the documentary, “For the Love of Spock.”  Now I fancy myself a Trekkie but I admit I had not heard about this documentary made by Leonard Nimoy’s Son.  The film is a beautiful tribute to a father from a son, but it is also a glimpse into the mind of the man that took us to the stars and back.

I do not always look for links between spirituality and movies, but I always felt that the Star Trek universe was very spiritual.  The Prime Directive always seemed like the Love Your Neighbor bit, and there always appeared to be this general way of dealing with the spirituality of others.  But very often, especially in the Star Trek movies and later series, Mr. Spock was often depicted at prayer.  As more was revealed about the people of Vulcan the more of the Vulcan spirituality was revealed.

But I was the most fascinated with Leonard Nimoy’s discussion of how the Vulcan greeting was created for the program.  Nimoy felt that there needed to be some greeting that would be exchanged between Vulcans that was more than a wave or simply saying “hi” as one passed by.  Nimoy, who speaks Yiddish, harkened back to a time and place of his childhood for the creation of the now famous “Vulcan Salute.”

The now famous “V” of the salute comes from the shape of the Hebrew letter shin.  Shin is the first letter of such Hebrew words as Shaddai, the name of God.  For Shalom and for Shekhinah which is the feminine aspect of God who was created to live among humans.  Not unlike Spock who was an “alien” but lived among humans.

But the Shekhinah is also the name of a prayer that Nimoy witnessed as a young boy.  In a 2013 interview, he describes experiencing this prayer for the first time.

“They get their tallits over their heads, and they start this chanting. And my father said to me, ‘don’t look.'” At first, he obliged, but what he could hear intrigued him. “I thought, ‘something major is happening here.’ So I peeked.  And I saw them with their hands stuck out from beneath the tallit like this,” Nimoy said, showing the “V” with both his hands. “I had no idea what was going on, but the sound of it and the look of it was magical.”

The men holding their hands in the “V” shape were, in fact, blessing the assembled people while they were praying.  Below is a video clip from the interview.  Listen to Nimoy describe the creation of the Vulcan Salute in his words.

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