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The Touch of Two Worlds

The Touch of Two Worlds


Monday through Thursday I surround myself with girls who openly share their dating stories, with all the details. We all laugh and go on about our business. When Shabbat comes along, all the details stay hushed and I find myself around a different group of girls, some who may not even have stories to share. These girls are what are called shomer negiah which means that they have decided to not touch those of the opposite gender until marriage. And quite frankly, I'm not sure whether to admire them or check their sanity levels.

Shomer negiah defies all of the societal changes that have become the normThis is me living a life between two worlds. As fun as it is to date and share stories with girlfriends, I happen to see so much of the wisdom in the laws of Jewish modesty, specifically shomer negiah. And although I have taken on many of the customs in Judaism I otherwise thought I never could, i.e. keeping shabbat Friday nights and giving up eel sushi, I don't see how it is humanly possibly to not touch boys anymore!

For a brief moment in time, I tried dating guys who are shomer negiah and so therefore, involuntarily, I was too. But when people ask me how I'd feel about the concept of not touching men, I can't help but laugh. It depends on the day. And whatever I could tell you now about how I feel will probably change by the time you actually read this. So I want to say this instead. That even though some of us, self included, may not be strong enough, or understand enough, on why it is important to keep the laws of shomer negiah, there are many lessons to be learned from its wisdom.

Shomer negiah defies all of the societal changes that have become the norm and have jaded us – divorce in every other home, affairs as after-work activities, teen pregnancies and full-blown nudity on television just to name a few. When seeing that there is this whole other option out there – to only touch, and think about, the person you are committed to – it takes us many steps backwards from the "norm" which I've just described and instead can bring us to an individualized place that feels comfortable for us.

Really, how often do we make decisions based on what is right for us versus what is "normal," what is expected? How often do our needs get mixed in with what we feel we're supposed to do, with what society says we should be doing? So much of our lives are ruled by the speed dating structure in our fast-paced world. Shomer negiah tells us it's okay to slow down.

As restricting as not touching sounds, it's pretty restricting to have standards put on us as wellLearning about shomer negiah has not given me the side effect of turning into a nun, but surprisingly, quite the opposite. I have spent more time reflecting on, and appreciating, myself. Maybe my body wasn't created for that cute guy at the bar after all. Sharing desires, and all your intimacy, with the one person who is sharing his only with you may just be the most powerful thing of all.

And although I've admitted I cannot fully commit to shomer negiah, I now have this complete perspective on what my choices are. It's like an awakening that as restricting as not touching sounds, it's pretty restricting to have standards put on us as well. Shomer negiah, despite its restrictions, is in fact empowering to now have new options in making our own decisions. It can be a huge relief.

In an upcoming film on shomer negiah, this guy talked about his regretful one-night-stand. And when he said, "Everyone you touch becomes a part of you," I got goosebumps. The message hasn't left my mind since. Everyone you touch becomes a part of you – a part of your history, of your memories, of your physical being, of your life, of your heart. And from this one line I get now that touch is stronger than we are taught, and more precious than perceived. When we come to realize we live in a sterile world regarding intimacy and sexuality, it's okay to step back and think twice about who we let become a part of us. And what stories we will share Monday through Thursday.

By Anonymous
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Elena Venice July 24, 2013

I have never thought of this issue as deeply as I am doing now, thank you! Reply

Jackie Brooklyn, NY December 5, 2011

@ Steph, indpls, IN @ Steph, indpls, IN...

That is very true!!! I just met someone like that and it is a great feeling to know you can go on many dates and they are still very respectful to this. This person was a convert as well. I was on a date with a Chassidish guy once, and he didn't even keep this rule. You can't judge a book by its cover that's for sure. Reply

Steph indpls, IN December 5, 2011

shomer negiah dating a man. 5 dates so far. we are both committed to being shomer negiah. when we walk, i notice he keeps his hands in his pockets. i appreciate all his efforts. he's trained himself to look in a woman's eyes, not like the men with those wandering eyes that make you feel so uncomfortable. what a difference. we're careful to not put ourselves in situations where we might mess up! we go out to coffee shops, restaurants, bowling etc. if the guy is a MAN he'll be on your side with this....... Reply

Anonymous NY, NY October 9, 2011

Temporary Pleasure Vs. Meaningful Connections As one writer wrote:
' is quite freeing though very difficult,to maintain,'. Yes I agree-very much so! However I am determined to give it a good effort. I know that I will be tested and tested and tested....but perseverance is key. On Sukkot 5770 a friend asked me if I am Shomer Shabbat to which I replied 'Yes!', then she asked me if I'm Shomer Kashrut, 'Yes!' I told her, then to the question if I'm Shomer Negiah I replied, 'Well, uh...not really, here and there, sometimes, I'm not really so good at that,....'I didn't have a clear 'yes' or 'no' answer. But I added that I would really like to be Shomer Negiah. She went on to tell me how 'every guy I ask has a similar answer'. I'm out to change that and put myself in the drivers seat going towards a goal that I know has to have it's rewards. 'Touch blinds a person' as another wrote..I say more like foggy but such a good point. One of my Teachers says always asks: 'When there is touching in dating, is it Lust or Love?' Reply

Miss Jacqueline Jones July 24, 2011

Shomer Negiah This is almost like the term "You are what you eat." Everyone you touch becomes a part of you and effects the way you are. I guess this is saying make sure the people you touch are going to only give you good pure energy to help shape you into a better person. Reply

Anonymous Melbourne, Australia November 11, 2010

what about the standards of shomer negiah (not touching those of the opposite sex)? in religious communities, a person is just as much expected, through the 'social norms' of that community, to observe these laws. wouldnt you say that in the spirit of shomer negiah, it is just as justifiable for a person who grew up shomer negiah to cast off the shackles of his or her upbringing and do what he or she feels is right? Reply

chava bet-shemesh , Israel October 8, 2010

the movie i really enjoyed reading what u wrote .
i'm also interested to know more about these film u wrote about !! Reply

gg skokie November 12, 2009

Shomer negiah, although not exactly the easiest, is incredible and there are so many advantages to it. Besides all the halachic points, This ensure that your husband is the first person you touch is your husband and when you touch him you are not comparing him to the previous guys in your life. Reply

Shayna April 12, 2009

I really agree with you here. I am not shomer negiah, but I wish I could change my past in this aspect of my life. Those that I've let into my life in an intimate way have definitely tainted my perception of myself and my future relationships. Much of these experiences resulted from exactly what you said --- societal expectations, the feeling that restraint in this world is abnormal and undesirable. Reply

ranting April 1, 2009

but isn't every person you talk & interact with a part of your life forever, as well? Reply

Anonymous meriden, ct February 3, 2009

I started trying to be shomer negiah,but i have always been a touchy person and it is quite freeing though very difficult,to maintain, Reply

Deborah Israel January 15, 2009

touch blinds a person. it is so true. great article Reply

Ava new york, new york September 11, 2008

How interesting! I too find it difficult to stay shomer negiah while dating even religious guys. It seems everybody defines this differently and I think everyone is afraid to be thought of as a prude. But it is nice to have a choice to go slowly - it is good not to have to touch everybody and make them part of your history. I personally find you get to know the person much more clearly when dating with physical distance. Reply

Dina Israel July 14, 2008

More articles, please. Reply

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