Monday, May 14, 2007

Spock's Salute

BEFORE we begin, let’s get one thing out of the way: Yes, Leonard Nimoy is more than happy to do it — the Vulcan salute, the gesture that launched a thousand spaceships. He does so easily, effortlessly: palm outward, fingers extended, the index and middle finger smashed together, the ring finger and pinky touching, the thumb sticking out on its own.

“People ask me all the time,” Mr. Nimoy said, carrying saucers of coffee and tea into his art-filled living room off Central Park West.

Most people know him as Mr. Spock, the terminally rational Vulcan with the famous hand signal. (The signal, which he said was his design, is actually rooted in Judaism. It represents the Hebrew letter “shin,” the first letter in the word Shaddai, which means God.)

In 2002, he published a book of photographs entitled “The Shekhina Project.” Shekhina is the feminine aspect of God; the photographs are sensual, erotic images of women draped in phylacteries, religious garments typically worn by Jewish males. The pictures were very controversial within the Jewish community: some people objected to the nudity, while others were offended by women in traditionally male garb. On the latter point, Mr. Nimoy said that he was not the first to put forth the idea. “There are historical writings of famous Jewish women, daughters of rabbis, who have done that,” he said.


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