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.1 Viewing sacred objects or images has positive benefits;2 pictures of impure animals harm3 the mind and soul.4

Children are particularly susceptible, for that which registers upon the mind when young forms an indelible impression. In the words of King Shelomoh:5 “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 mind6 have potent effects even when older.

There are Halachic sources for this. The Jewish Code of Law states:7 “Upon leaving immersion in a mikvah women should be careful ... that the first thing they encounter should not be an impure thing [such as a dog or donkey]8 ... If she encountered such things, a G‑d-fearing women will return and reimmerse herself”.9 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.10

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 new-born’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 chosen.

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.11 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 pure things.

The importance of the above is even more emphasized in our times, the era immediately preceding Moshiach’s coming. It is our responsibility to prepare for the Messianic era, to “taste” of12 those things which will then be present.13 And one of those things will be the fulfillment of the promise “I will remove the spirit of impurity from the land.”14 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”15 — in the true and complete redemption through our righteous Moshiach.

Sichas Chof MarCheshvan, 5744