As an antidote to Rudy Guiliani’s painfully smug speech at the Republican National Convention last night, I started thinking about Star Trek’s Mr. Spock, which caused me to conjure the Vulcan hand sign for “Live Long and Prosper” (one of the most venerated sayings in popular culture). Did you know that the actor Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock, created the extraterrestrial sign of hope based on a Jewish cemetery symbol?
On old European Jewish tombstones, a carving that shows two handsarranged for the Priestly Blessing (see above) is the symbol of the Kohen. Kohanim are the direct male descendantsof Aaron, who was the first Kohen and the brother of Moses. Today, if one is so inclined, it is possible to trace a priestly lineage from the tombstones that bear this symbol, which, if you follow the logic, gives new resonance to Mel Brooks’ classic Jews in Space. It certainly takes one’s mind off Guiliani.
About Steven Heller
Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.