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Live Long and Prosper: Words of "Star Trek" and Torah for Jewish Leaders

Live Long and Prosper: Words of "Star Trek" and Torah for Jewish Leaders

Tile sign of the Star of David with the Vulcan salute in front

You’re probably familiar with the Star Trek hand symbol that means, “Live long and prosper!” Did you may know that Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock, was Jewish? He once said in an interview that he was inspired to create the Vulcan salute because he had seen the hand motion in synagogue as a child during the Priestly Benediction.

Parashat Naso (the Torah portion we read before opening week of the Jewish summer camp where I serve as director of Jewish life) contains the words of the Priestly Benediction, the prayer the priests (the descendants of Aaron during the Temple period) use to bless the Israelites. It’s also the prayer that modern-day rabbis use to bless their communities, acting as a medium through which God reaches the people.

As the Torah says in Numbers 6:23-27:

“Speak to Aaron and his sons: Thus shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them:

‘May God bless you and guard you:
May the light of God shine upon you, and may God be gracious to you:
May the presence of God be with you and give you peace.’

Thus they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”

And according to the Talmud, in tractate Sota 39a, we see that the priests are supposed to say yet another blessing in preparation for the Priestly Benediction in order to sanctify it: “Blessed are You, Sovereign of the universe, who sanctified us with the holiness of Aaron and commanded us to bless God’s people with love.” (Sotah 39a).

As Rabbi Dr. Jenny Solomon asks in her d’var Torah “What’s Love Got to Do with It?" this leads us to ask the question “Why love?” Why is it so important that the priests acting as God’s messenger bless the Israelites with love?

It seems that the Talmud is saying that the blessing over the people of the children of Israel must be sanctified – and that one way of doing that is through love. 

This is something we also do with our campers. On Friday nights, we literally bless them during Shabbat dinner, and even when it’s not Shabbat, we use our love of community and Judaism to pass on a legacy to our children.

Our leadership and staff know, too, that our words and behaviors will trickle down to our staff and our campers. In fact, in many ways, it’s a trickle-down effect of our leadership’s love and care that translates into the love and care put in by our counselors that evolves into campers’ overall love of learning, community, and camp.

It is my hope, then, that even on our most difficult days, we can remember to sanctify with love everything that we pass on to our young Jewish campers – and in doing so, perhaps we can encourage them to “live long and prosper” while fulfilling the goals of the Priestly Benediction that we find in the Torah.

This d’var Torah was presented before the staff and leadership of URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy – East, a Reform Jewish summer camp in Byfield, MA, during the first Shabbat of the camp’s 2019 summer season. Learn more about Reform Jewish summer camping and find a camp near you.

Julia Berg is the director of Jewish life at URJ 6 Points Sci-Tech Academy – East, a Reform Jewish summer camp in Byfield, MA. She is a rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, CA. 

Julia Berg
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