Untouchable in a Touchscreen World

December 21, 2011

We live in a very hands-on world.

Touchscreens of all sizes have reshaped the way we live.

Touch is intuitive. It flows. And so it works.

To touch is to influence. We click, tap, drag, swipe, edit, sync, upload, share. My hands have become so active that I refuse to wear winter gloves (lest my thumbs tap five keys at a time).

Yes, we’ve become very touchy-feely.

But, have we?


I love Apple stores, and what I love most about them is their hands-on policy. If you see it, touch it. Try it. Control it. Buy it.

(And I always do.)

In contrast, the Menorah seems to have a different policy.

Upon lighting the Chanukah candles, we make an interesting little declaration:

“These candles are sacred –

We can’t touch them, but we can only observe them.”

In other words: Hands off.

These flames are for observingNot touching.

Simply put, stop touching and let yourself be affected. Let yourself be touched. Let the message penetrate. Until you realize that the world and its subtle songs have ways of touching you far deeper than any touchscreen can possibly reach.


The ability to be touched is gravely endangered.

With unlimited access to endless bits of up-to-the-minute reality bytes, we have gradually become reality-hooked. We want to know what’s happening the moment it happens, even if it’s happening to some random athlete as he shops for toothpaste and decides to share his experience with two million followers. Yes, we want to know what’s happening. But an addiction to constant hits from the “reality pipe” can take its toll on the heart. We gradually forget that life has mysteries. Miracles!

Now, as I write these very words, I can’t help but criticize my tone. “Mysteries?” “Miracles?” What, am I living in some fantasy world of mythical magic?

But this reaction is just a symptom of the above-mentioned spiritual ailment. I’m allowed to believe in God. And I’m allowed to believe in His miracles. And, as a result, I allow myself to be touched. Even though it is something I cannot touch.

Mystery often means vulnerability and vulnerability is highly unpopular these days. We like to touch things because we like to manipulate and control our external situations. We like to take charge and text and tweet and twist our realities around
whatever the ego pursues. But sometimes – every now and then – we let go. And let ourselves be touched.

And, the funny thing is, during moments like these, when the heart is open and the flames seep into the tiny cracks of unguarded emotion, we feel no need to touch things or control our surroundings. We feel open. Accessible.

“These candles are sacred….”

Don’t touch them.

See them.

Invite them in.

And let them touch you.

Doni Joszef LMSW is a cognitive psychotherapist practicing with adolescents and young adults in Cedarhurst. He is a member of the DRS Guidance Department, and is available by appointment. Contact Doni by cell: (516)316-2246 or email:

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.