Oy Vey Vulcan
I know this lady is who 94-years old, still living on her own, and she loves keeping up with current events. She worked on Capitol Hill in her youth, back when Congressmen had two staff members, or one. She has subscriptions to Village Voice and Rolling Stone and is probably their oldest subscriber. Recently she asked me if I would find a book she wanted to read called Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish by Abigail Pogrebin. The book is a series of 62 essay interviews with prominent Jewish-Americans who talk about how being Jewish fits into having a public life. The lady's rabbi was using this book for a series of study and teaching at her synagogue's adult education class. I flipped through the book to read some of the interviews before I passed it on to her and it was engrossing.
William Shatner is Jewish? Who knew? But so is Leonard Nimoy, and it was his interview that fascinated me the most. Nimoy was born into an Jewish Orthodox family in Boston. When he went to Hollywood, his looks got him cast into parts where he would play the heavy: the bad Mexican, the bad Italian, but as he says, "I was very happy to get the work thank you very much." His parents were never impressed with his career, not even after he achieved success. To paraphrase Nimoy, his mother said, "So you're a Captain. You were always a Captain to me." At Star Trek conventions, he has been known to tell the story of the Vulcan hand greeting which is a raised hand with forked fingers--the index and middle fingers sandwiched together and the ring and pinky fingers similarly aligned. This, Nimoy says, evolved from his Jewish childhood.
Nimoy says he invented the hand signal based on seeing the Boston rabbis do it when the priests would offer up a "theatrically done blessing." The men in his synagogue would cover their heads with prayer shawls, "...and they were shouters--they were old, Orthodox shouting guys," and about six of them would get up to face the congregation, chanting in a mystical way which started with humming. They would be swaying and chanting and humming and some old guy would shout out Y'varechecha Adonai!" Then the whole group would chorus it back, and little Leonard found it "spooky."
Nimoy says, "So the congregation was all standing, and my father said to me, "Don't look." And in fact, everybody's got their eyes covered with their hands or they've got their heads covered with their prayer shawl, the entire congregation, but I peeked, and I saw these guys doing this. To this day I'm not sure why my father said, "Don't look." Nimoy feels that it ties into the traditional belief that during the blessing the Shekhina--the feminine presence of God--enters the congregation to bless them, and you shouldn't see God, because the "light" could be fatal to a human, so you close your eyes to protect yourself. He said, "My father never said "Close your eyes because God is coming. He just said, "Don't look."
(I had a friend looking at the draft of this piece and it triggered a boyhood memory for him. He said when he was a little boy, his father would take him to the barber shop. There were nude calendars on the wall, and he would try very hard to not get caught looking at them. One day the barber complained that he was keeping his neck too stiff, so his father said, "It's all right. Go ahead and look.")
Later, after the Star Trek television series ended, Nimoy was trying to think of a way to incorporate photographing nude women with the symbolic hand (the Hebrew letter "shin") and the idea of Shekhina as invoking the feminine spiritual presence. He said, "I feel less judgmental of that presence than I would of a male presence. To the male God, I say, "What are you doing, where are you, what are you thinking? Why are you letting these things happen, looking the other way or saying, "Go ahead, work it out for yourself, guys." But this whole feminine thing. I don't have that expectation because for me it's not an all-powerful patriarchal figure, it's a maternal figure, it's a loving figure, it's even an erotic figure." Nimoy's books was published in 2002, and it is appropriately enough titled, Shekhina.
Judaism is a monotheistic religion which is strongly connected to the sense of a patriarchal God--Yahweh, but it may surprise many people to learn that from the conception of Judaism there has always been a goddess that continues to play an important part of the religion. The term is best known as Shekhina, which is a Talmudic term describing the manifestion of God's presence on earth. The word does not appear in the Bible, but Shekhina is bound to extremely ancient traditions which still manifest themselves into the present, including Shabbat Hamalka the Queen, the Bride of God, which is celebrated every Friday by Jews all over the world as they light their Sabbath candles, and by tradition, the candles must always be lit by women.
If you study the Vulcan hand greeting, you can see the symbolic Hebrew letter shin represented by the placing of the fingers. Often this Hebrew letter is portrayed in flames as it is the Divine Revelation and the essence of change. Shin is continuously in a state of motion, much like fire. So...from the coal of the earth to the flame of spirituality from rocking chanting oldsters to gauzy goddesses to boldly go where no man has gone before. Highly logical.