The Vulcan salute is a hand gesture used by Vulcans as a greeting. It involves holding the palm of one's right hand outwards while placing the fingers in a "V" shaped by separating the middle and ring fingers, while keeping the others together. This salute is often, but not always, accompanied with the salutation "Live long and prosper" or "Live long (name), and prosper." The lesser known salutation, which on occasion precedes that usage, is "Peace and long life". (TOS: "Amok Time", "Is There in Truth No Beauty?"; TNG: "Sarek", "Unification, Part I", "Unification, Part II"; VOY: Various episodes)
In Vulcan, the greeting is pronounced Dup dor a'az Mubster (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)
In 2151, an ornament of Surak performing the Vulcan salute with both hands was displayed aboard the Vahklas, a Vulcan civilian transport ship. Unlike other Vulcan salutes, Surak's hands were not held upright. (ENT: "Fusion")
The Vulcan salute was devised by Leonard Nimoy, based on a gesture made by various Jewish denominations including Orthodox and Conservative. Nimoy learned the gesture, which takes practice to do, from visiting his grandfather's synagogue as a child. The gesture forms the Hebrew letter "Shin" and represents the name Shaddai, which means "Almighty (God)." The hand gesture originally was used by the Kohanim (Heb. "priests"), the Jewish priesthood, during a blessing ceremony on certain Jewish holy days. The blessing is now common in synagogues throughout the world and not only on special holidays and is not limited to clergy.
The Jewish blessing is done with both hands, with arms extended upward at roughly a 45-degree angle, rather than one hand held upright as in the Salute. The blessing is found in Numbers 6:22 of the Old Testament where God tells Aaron, Moses' brother, the first High Priest, to bless the Israelites and say, "May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace." (There are numerous common translations.) A good "quickie" version would be, "Live long and prosper."
The grammatical format of the salutation is very similar to (and probably based upon) the Hebrew greeting, "Shalom Aleichem" (peace be upon you) and its usual reply, "Aleichem Shalom" (upon you be peace)
William Shatner may not be able to produce the Vulcan Salute. If you look closely at his hands in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock when he performs the salute, it appears that fishing line holds two of his fingers together.
- The Jewish Origin of the Vulcan Salute -- a very complete page by Rabbi Yonassan Gershom, with photos and diagrams of how the Salute forms the Hebrew letter Shin, the use of the Blessing Hands gesture on Jewish gravestones and jewelry, etc.
The Wikipedia entry for "Names of God in Judaism" shows a clear illustration of the Judaic origin of the Vulcan salute-it can be found at Names of God in Judaism