In the Beginning…There was Touch

This Shabbat we read the Torah anew. Genesis. Beresheet. In the beginning…The first chapters in the first book build and set the stage for humanity and its playground.

The phases and days of Creation are beautifully awe-inspiring. Yet the creation of humans is the icing on the cake; radically different from the creations that came before. Adam and Eve — their coming into being and relationship — are the start of true connection and appreciation, for each other and the world. It is from the first humans we learn of assessments, evaluations, decisions, fears, and feelings.

I often try to imagine the very first meeting between Adam and Eve. What did they say? What did they do? What did they think about the works of creation and their mutual coming into existence?

***

With the birth of a new grandson, I’ve been especially fascinated with modern day humans’ first interactions with the world…

Healthy babies are born with all five senses intact. According to medical professionals, the senses are formed in utero with the sense of touch being first, followed by the senses of sight, sound, taste, and smell. Armed with only these, babies enter the world. And, for the first year of life, these senses develop further in independent and codependent ways.

Can you even imagine — after floating in a warm, darkened womb and experiencing muffled sound vibrations — a baby’s first encounter with our reality?

True to form, touch — specifically hands — is the first sensation and contact the baby encounters. Strong, confident, guiding hands; the warmth of a mother’s skin comforting; protective arms holding; and gentle touching and massaging fingers are all examples of how a baby initially feels safe and secure.

I’ve had the recent pleasure of spending time with my grandsons; Ryan, a twenty-month-old and Evan, a newborn. So I’ve been paying particular attention to the sense of touch. Aside from washing them non-stop, my hands have held, fed, played, tickled, changed, comforted, and massaged these two as much as possible. I am aware of the power of these intimate touches. I know bonds are being formed in the process. I pray my hands never hurt them and continue only to convey love and care. I truly hope the boys can feel my heart through my hands.

***

The pandemic has forced us to be separated from each other. Even if we visit with family, friends, or colleagues, we’ve been advised to social distance – to not be within six feet of each other. With all this, I’ve been wondering…what will happen to our sense of touch? Will we be overly cautious once we’re able to physically reconnect or will we gratefully and joyfully hug and kiss each other?

Personally speaking, if you’re part of my life, be prepared to be smothered.

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