Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nimoy: The Origin of the Vulcan Salute (Updated)

Leonard Nimoy write an article for where he discusses the origin of the Vulcun salute with the phrase "Live long and prosper." The salute was created by Leonard Nimoy while filming the TOS episode Amok Time that it first appeared in. As he said told the site, “The idea came when I saw the way Joe was staging the scene. He had me approach T'Pau and I felt a greeting gesture was called for. So I suggested it to Joe [Pevney, director of the episode], who accepted it immediately. Gene was not involved.” The salute and phrase's origins tie directly into Leonard Nimoy's Jewish upbringing which will be soon celebrating Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Below is his story from his childhood that helped with the salute's creation.
I grew up in an interesting inner-city neighborhood in Boston. The area was known as the West End and was written about in a book called the Urban Villagers. It was a desirable area since it was within walking distance of downtown Boston and the Boston Commons, as well as being situated along the banks of the Charles River.

The population was mostly immigrants. Maybe 70% Italian and 25% Jewish. My family attended services in an Orthodox Jewish Synagogue, or “Shul.” We were especially attentive to the high holidays, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

Since I was somewhat musical, I was hired as a young boy to sing in choirs for the holidays and I was therefore exposed to all of the rituals firsthand. I still have a vivid memory of the first time I saw the use of the split-fingered hands being extended to the congregation in blessing.

There were a group of five or six men facing the congregation and chanting in passionate shouts of a Hebrew benediction. It would translate to “May the Lord bless you and keep you,”…etc.

My Dad said, “Don’t look.”

I learned later that it is believed that during this prayer, the “Shekhina,” the feminine aspect of God comes into the temple to bless the congregation. The light from this Deity could be very damaging. So we are told to protect ourselves by closing our eyes.

I peeked.

And when I saw the split-fingered gesture of these men... I was entranced. I learned to do it simply because it seemed so magical.

It was probably 25 years later that I introduced that gesture as a Vulcan greeting in Star Trek and it has resonated with fans around the world ever since. It gives me great pleasure since it is, after all, a blessing.

Live Long And Prosper,
Leonard Nimoy
Update: Thanks to spectr1701 for reminding me that Leonard Nimoy talked about this in part 2 (at 10:07 point) of his Nerdist interview that I posted back in May. I have that part posted below starting at that point.


  1. 10:07 mark:

  2. Thanks for creating star trek movie blog!!

    Nice Blog..