Because what one sees leaves lasting impressions, especially on young children,
the toys that a child plays with, and the pictures that he looks at, should not
be of impure animals.
Visual images have great impact on
man's mind: What one sees can leave lasting impressions for good or bad. Viewing sacred objects or images has positive
benefits; pictures of impure animals harm the mind and soul.
Children are particularly susceptible, for that which
registers upon the mind when young forms an indelible impression. In the words
of King Shlomo: "Train a child in the way he
should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Impressions
etched in a child's tender mind have potent effects
even when older.
There are Halachic sources for this. The Jewish Code of Law
states: "Upon leaving immersion in a mikveh women
should be careful ... that the first thing they encounter should not be an
impure thing [such as a dog or donkey] ... If she
encountered such things, a G-d-fearing women will return and reimmerse
herself". The reason for this is as above: looking
at impure animals can have a harmful effect on an embryo. Conversely, viewing
something sacred after immersion has a beneficial effect on the embryo.
It follows, then, that one should be particularly careful of objects and
pictures that a child sees. It is a Jewish custom, for example, to hang verses
from the Torah or other sacred objects on the walls of a newborn's room, or
around his crib. Conversely, a parent should ensure that no pictures of impure
animals should meet the baby's gaze. Children also enjoy playing with toys, such
as stuffed animals. Again, only pure animals, birds, and fish, should be
As the child becomes older, it is time for him or her to learn the
aleph-bais. So that the child can move easily grasp the shape of the
letters, it is usual to illustrate them with pictures. Only pictures of pure
animals should be used. Similarly, the pictures of
animals used to make many text books and note books more attractive should only
be Pure animals.
A popular character in this country, it is true, is a ... mouse. Other impure
creatures have also become well-known symbols. So wide-spread has this become
that Jewish publications, which otherwise are completely kosher, have
unfortunately also become infected. But it is not at all a difficult task to see
to it that from now on all illustrations in Jewish text books should be only of
The importance of the above is even more emphasized in our times, the era
immediately preceding Mashiach's coming. It is our responsibility to
prepare for the Messianic era, to "taste" of those
things which will then be present. And one of
those things will be the fulfillment of the promise "I will remove the
spirit of impurity from the land." A fitting
preparation for the Messianic era is to ensure, where possible, that only
pictures depicting pure and sacred things be used.
May it be G-d's will that we thereby merit an overflowing increase of the
"pure waters of knowledge", until the fulfillment of the promise
"the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the water covers the
sea" -- in the true and complete redemption
through our righteous Mashiach.
See Kav HaYosher, ch. 2; Kuntreis HaAvodah,
 See Midbar Kadomos, section "picture;"
Sefer Toldos Adam.
 This does not apply to looking at animals
for the purpose of reciting the blessing over strange animals. The Kav HaYosher
notes that even in such a case, "he should only look at them temporarily." The
same reasoning would apply to looking for the purpose of pondering on G-d's
manifold works. Similarly, visiting a zoo would also be permitted.
In many synagogues, a lion's or eagle's head
is depicted on the curtain in front of the ark, and on the Torah's mantle and
crown. But this is to serve as a reminder that prayer to G-d shall be in the
manner of "strong as a lion" and "light as an eagle," as the beginning of the
Shulchan Aruch instructs (based on Avos 5:20 . Another reason may be that it
parallels the Supernal Chariot on which was the face of a lion and the face of
In similar fashion, the reason some of the tribes had unclean
animals depicted on their banners is because each picture was associated with
the quintessence of that tribe (Bamidbar Rabbah 2:7).
 Mishlei 22:6.
 See Rokeiach, Hilchos Shavuos 296: "On the
day that a child is educated about the sacred letters, we cover him up so that
he should not see a dog."
 Ramah, Yoreh Deah ch. 198; Sha'arei Orah,
Hilchos Niddah, ch. 26; Rokeiach and Kol Bo, Hilchos Niddah; See also Shach on
Yoreh Deah, ch. 198.
 Midrash Eleh Ezkerah (and Sha'arei Orah
ibid) cites an actual case of the mother of R. Yishmael ben Elisha the kohen
gadol, who repeated her immersion eighty times.
See Berachos 20a, that through women
looking at R. Yochanan after immersion they had beautiful children like
This does not apply when learning in Torah of
the different types of unclean animals; it is obviously permissible for the
teacher to draw pictures of them to facilitate understanding. As Rashi, the most
famed teacher of all, comments on the verse (Vayikra 11:2) "This is the living
thing" -- that Moshe "showed" the Jews the animals they were prohibited from
 As stated, "Those who taste of it merit
life" -- see Magen Avraham, Orach Chayim ch. 250, subsection 1; Aruch Admur
HaZakein, Orach Chayim ch. 250, para. 8.
See Likkutei Sichos, vol. 15, p.
 Zechariah 13:2.
 Yeshayahu 11:9.