What do those hands mean?

A few readers have asked me about the symbol on Moses Cohen, Sr.’s headstone:

Moses Cohen, Sr. headstone

Moses Cohen, Sr. headstone

The hands with the fingers separated is the traditional symbol of the Cohanim, the priestly tribe descended from Aaron. (Some may also remember it as the symbol used by Spock on Star Trek.)

The Cohanim hold their hands in that position when they perform the ritual of giving the priestly blessing to the congregation during certain services.  For more information on the symbol and the role of the Cohanim, here are a few links:

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priestly_Blessing

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/762109/jewish/Raise-Your-Hand-If-Youre-A-Kohen.htm

http://judaism.about.com/od/shabbatprayersblessings/f/bless_kohanim.htm

http://cemeteries.wordpress.com/2006/11/01/kohanim-or-cohanim-hands-priestly-blessing/

The last link also discusses other traditional symbols found on Jewish headstones.