The Benediction that we, as a congregation, recite each week is called the Aaronic Blessing. It is found in Numbers 6:22-26 in the Hebrew Scriptures. While it has been part of my ministry for as long as I can remember, I have never preached this Blessing, nor have I spent much time studying it. I knew that it was an important part of the Jewish faith, but the New Testament writers don’t record a time when Jesus recited or received the Blessing.
In Jewish worship, the Blessing is given by men known as “Kohen,” who were the descendants of Aaron, the first High Priest. The Kohen place their prayer shawls over their heads and raise their hands while their fingers are split in such a way that there are 5 spaces: one space between the thumbs, a space between the thumb and first finger of each hand, and a space between the second and third finger of each hand. The five spaces are an allusion to the verse in Song of Songs 2:8 which states that God “peeks through the cracks in the wall.” In other words, God protects and watches His children even when He is hidden.
I found a picture of a Kohen giving the Blessing to the congregation, and I was thrilled to see something I had never noticed before. Why was I thrilled? Well, if you look closely at the picture, you might see what I noticed. The way the Kohen holds his hands is the same as the Vulcan greeting made popular by Mr. Spock of the original Star Trek. And between you and me, there was a time in my life when I was a bit of a Trekkie.
After doing some research, I discovered that this was no coincidence. Leonard Nimoy borrowed the Vulcan greeting from his Orthodox Jewish upbringing. Nimoy said the sight of the blessing left an overwhelming impression on him as a child. So, when Spock needed a way to greet others in the show, he reached back to those memories. He used the hand gesture similar to those priests and uttered those memorable words, “Live long and prosper.”
It is probably best that I stop here before someone accuses me of believing that being a Trekkie is somehow Biblical. Let me close in a way that we should all be familiar after hearing it week after week for the last five years:
‘”May the Lord bless you and keep you; May the Lord’s face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; May Lord’s countenance be upon you and give you peace. ”’
PS…Oh yeah, just so you know, William Shatner, “Captain Kirk,” is also Jewish. So, could it be that somewhere buried deep in the Hebrew Scriptures we might find one of his favorite phrases, “Set your phasers to stun??” Hmmmm….