Don’t Touch

The very first order given to us by the Almighty was: Don’t touch. Are you listening to me? Hands to yourselves. Don’t. Touch. Very, very bad things will happen if you touch that tree. See here, I’ve given you all these other trees, covered with yummy fruit. Mmmmm. Go enjoy the garden. Ride an elephant. Build a tree fort. Discover Velcro. Just don’t touch that one tree.

So, being human, Adam and Eve touched it. As punishment, God gave them boys to raise.

And the sinful impulse continues to this day, in my own sons. It’s like their eyes don’t work correctly, and so they have to put their grubby little hands on something to actually see it (except for Isaac, who gets acquainted with an object by covering it in slobber and then whacking himself in the forehead with it).

Caleb has discovered that touching is an effective way to insert himself into a conversation. He doesn’t use a gentle hand on the arm, like how my wife signals that I’m working up too frothy a conversational lather with dinner guests, or offering a Scotch to the wrong in-law.

No, Caleb’s new method of interruption is a really hard poke, right in the stomach. The first time he did it I actually yelped. It’s a stealthy, unnerving little attack on the senses. And then, once you know it could be coming at any time, it kind of puts you on edge. So now Caleb is learning that it’s a bad idea, especially at the dinner table, to poke the bear.

Eli, meanwhile, has become fond of giving me a little open-palmed whack as he walks bye, punctuated by “Hi Dad!” Sure, it sounds sweet enough, until the first time he catches you square in the groin.

Women don’t understand how so much pain can be generated by such a small gesture. They think they’ve got the corner on the pain market because of that whole childbirth thing. Well, we hurt too, ladies. So quit your snickering.

You know who you are.

It’s interesting how so many ills in the world can be traced back to this inability of man to keep his hands to himself. War, taxes, Michael Jackson — all these things could have been avoided had only we listened back in the Garden. Such a pity.


  1. Pearl

    I have to *hand* it to you, Tony. This was a lovely piece to read at my work desk first thing this morning. Hopefully, things can only get better — and not *out of hand* — in this world of ours…and in your own little world, too!

  2. sid

    Well, i will try to keep my hands from touching things I ought not to touch. BTW, Tony, Congratulations on your alma mater’s victory yesterday over the Fighting Illini!!!! We here in Ann Arbor dont have much of a basketball team, unfortunately.

  3. Vox


    Tony, once again, manages to cut through to the core of the problem – and he’ll make you laugh while he does it. Read this for the consequence of disobeying…

  4. MarcV

    Now don’t sell Michigan too short – they have won a few NIT basketball titles.

    Taxes are an “ill”? I would say they are a necessary evil, since people cannot be relied upon to voluntarily contribute their fair share to the government. Some folks would be much more politically active if they had to write out their “contribution” to Uncle Sammy every quarter, and see for themselves how much of their wallet is being picked over. You would have a little problem of a few absent-minded people “forgetting” to write a check …

  5. John "Akatsukami" Braue

    Noooo…the Holy One’s first command was, “Do not eat of the tree”.

    The Talmud has an interesting riff on the difference. Adam said to Eve, “Don’t touch the tree”, thinking that by doing he was putting a gezeirah (fence) around the command. The serpent, however, took advantage of this; he pushed Eve against the tree and said, “See? Adam was wrong when he said that if you touched it, you’d die. He was wrong about eating its fruit, too…”

  6. yellow duck

    I beg to differ. Many women know just how much pain can be generated by such a small gesture…it’s called labour and delivery.

  7. dilys

    Thanks to Akatsukami for the comment. Big difference between touching, and tasting. Funny and inspiring as Tony’s writing always is, this misfired allusion bothered me all through the reading.

    I am just learning that the Orthodox use this story very precisely to explain in part the benefits of fasting. Eve was told she could eat “everything…except…” so to fast vis a vis certain foodstuffs is a reentry into edenic obedience. Someone who is a professional chef can certainly touch, and even smell, such food during Lent. Though it would be hard…

    During Lent, I had better not touch (lest I eat) a hot grilled steak with Roquefort butter and cheese potato and…uh, could you direct me to one of those gezeirah thingys NOW?

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