‘Who is it that Touched me?’ Contact Tracing the Divine in the Era of COVID19

The contagion of COVID19 has made deadly that for which human beings yearn: touch. We must be satisfied, for now, with only prophylactic contact. A similar ambivalence haunts the notion of touch in Scripture: touch heals, but also contaminates, and even destroys.

Despite the sentimentality of the Sistine Chapel, direct contact between God and Adam is deeply problematic. The hand of God touches/strikes the Egyptians with the plagues. The touch of the angel dislocates Jacob’s hip. Uzzah’s presumptuous touch of the ark of the covenant kills him. The Israelites may not touch the mountain in the desert.

Who may know the divine touch, and live? The paper investigates this question with the assistance of Jacques Derrida and Katherine Sonderegger.