Columns - 2015

    Ritual logic

    Mount Seleya, Vulcan -- In light of recent events, the Vulcan High Council has finally consented to consider whether the Terran Jewish custom of saying Kaddish is logical.

    Why would the Vulcans care about a ritual from Earth, especially one that is specifically Jewish? Some Vulcan scholars have found Judaism fascinating ever since discovering that the time-honored Vulcan salute is identical to a hand gesture used by the Jewish high priest during priestly benedictions.

    Not only are the hand gestures identical in formation, but Vulcans and Jews also find them equally painful.

    It is therefore logical to believe that where one parallel exists, other parallels could be at least worthy of exploration.

    Terran Jewish tradition has people say Kaddish every day for eleven months after an immediate relative passes away, and then every year on the anniversary date. An immediate relative is defined as a parent, spouse, sibling, or child, because these are the relatives you are most likely to have affronted more frequently with frustration, indignance, or playing Barry M*nilow too loud.

    Is it logical to dwell on the past? Some Vulcan scholars say that it is logical only to look forward. Others say that one can look at the past without dwelling on it. A few more believe that the question is irrelevant because it was asked in the past, which has yet to be proven to be logical to dwell upon, and therefore it is simultaneously both relevant and irrelevant until fully investigated.

    One scholar raised the accepted tenet that how we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life. Saying Kaddish is a form of dealing with death, and therefore it would merit exploration as an exploration of life itself.

    The Kaddish does not talk about death, or about individuals. The most logical purpose of reciting it is simply to remember. However, Vulcan mental discipline allows them to have exceptional memory, so there is much debate about whether such a ritualistic reminder is necessary.

    In a basic form, once again a similar Vulcan ritual already exists. When a Vulcan dies, his or her Katra -- the living spirit, or soul, containing everything they knew and were -- can be retained. When this form of mind meld is performed, as part of the process the word "remember" is uttered.

    Once again, debate exists. Some scholars believe that this provides precedent for a ritual to remember those who have passed. Others say an unpronounceable Vulcan term, which best translates as "poppycock." A few more believe that nobody can truly know what would be best until they can establish a common frame of reference -- in essence, that they would have to die before they could competently discuss matters related to death.

    Of course, the question exists that if a Vulcan's Katra is preserved, is that person truly gone? That is, if the soul persists, is that person gone "enough" to be mourned and, thus, commemorated via the Kaddish?

    Like the debate on Earth centuries ago regarding when is the actual point in time when a life begins, this raises the centuries-old Vulcan debate about when life truly ends. During one of many debates on this subject centuries ago, the great Surak's summary of the discordant discourse became a philosophical cornerstone of the Vulcan people: Infinite Diversity from Infinite Combinations.

    So, as of this writing, the Council has suspended the Kaddish debate so they can focus instead on resolving a more fundamental issue. It is axiomatic that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. However, is it logical that for every two Vulcans there are three opinions?

    To more fully explore this broad question, the Vulcan High Council has decided to examine the Talmud -- a copy of which they ordered from Amazon Prime, the only interstellar repository of all published knowledge that guarantees two-day delivery to all Federation member planets, and most outlying colonies and outposts.

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who suspects Leonard Nimoy might have enjoyed this. But we often do such things too late. For past columns, other writings, and more, visit For exclusive online content, follow

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.