"Do you ever go behind the rope and touch it?"
I think you are right, it doesn´t makes any sense, at least not in the direction you thought.
Now, there´s at least a sense it could make sense.http://www.cb1.com/~john/ringing/glossary.html#Lead_End
Touch -A piece of method ringing shorter than a quarter peal but usually longer than a plain course, brought about by the calling of bobs and singles. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Change_ringingBells have been installed in towers around the world and many rings in the British Isles have been augmented to ten, twelve, fourteen, or even sixteen bells. Today change ringing is, particularly in England, a popular and commonplace sound, often issuing from a church tower before or after a service or wedding. While on these everyday occasions the ringers must usually content themselves with shorter "touches," each lasting a few minutes, for special occasions they often attempt a quarter-peal or peal, lasting approximately 45 minutes or three hours respectively.To me, it sounds like your sentence could be translated (a bit of loose translation here) as "tocar" o sino. But then, don´t
think about it the way we do in Portuguese, it´s just some ''batida" not a ''badalada" (that would be long span of time).
Generally you will have a rope attached to the clapper/tongue of the bell, so if you gently hold that rope and sway it sideways in a short space of time, it would be called "touching it". Since it would vibrate in a shorter way (a couple minutes if the bell is a big one).
Different of just pulling the rope, which would lose less energy with the stroke.
I am just summing it up, it is a bit of science, indeed: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/aav/2012/681787/
Well, I am going to leave the ball on the ringers´ court now.