Hands Down, A Great Blessing


Dear Rabbi,

There is a special hand greeting done in the Star Trek series by Mr. Spock to “live long and prosper.” I was told it’s a Hebrew blessing and I have also seen it on plaques and souvenirs from Israel. Would you help me learn more about it? Thanks.



  1. The Torah commands the kohanim, the descendants of Aharon, to bless the Jewish people. They are to stand in front of the congregation, raise their hands to shoulder level and pronounce the “priestly blessings” found in the Book of Numbers (6:22): “May God bless you and keep you….”

    This commandment has been performed by kohanim in synagogues until this very day. The prevalent custom today is that the hands are held together palms-down, and the fingers are split such 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 the Jewish people even when He is hidden.

    As mentioned, a kohen is someone descended from Aharon (Moses’s brother) and therefore from the tribe of Levi. Even if a kohen can’t split his fingers in the proper manner, he can still give the priestly blessing. The ability to split your fingers in the proper manner is absolutely no indication that you are from the priestly tribe.

    By the way, Leonard Nemoy who played Mr. Spock was Jewish, and his “Vulcanic” hand-gestures originate from this mitzvah in the Torah. In addition, “Captain Kirk” (William Shatner) is also Jewish. (A friend’s wife went to the same camp as his daughter.) The phrase “Set your phasers to stun,” however, is found nowhere in the Torah!

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team