Ask the Rov: Is it appropriate for a teacher to hatch butterflies or other non-kosher creatures in the classroom?
By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah
Seeing holy images has a positive effect on a person, while negative images have the opposite effect. Eyesight connects a person with the subject being viewed, and is so powerful that an ostrich can hatch its eggs just by looking at them.1
Chazal list certain things at which one should not gaze, such as the face of an evil person or someone who is angry. One should not look at the moon, except for a moment before Kiddush Levana, nor at a rainbow, except when reciting the bracha, for these harm the eyes. Some sources hold that these restrictions apply only to concentrated staring.2
The Gemara relates how things that a woman looks at could have an effect on her offspring.3 Shulchan Aruch mentions the scrupulousness of avoiding the sight of impure animals (e.g. dog or donkey) at certain auspicious times.4
The Rebbe spoke of the praiseworthy practice to surround a child with images of kedusha and Yiddishkeit, and avoiding even non-kosher animals and weaponry. This is especially important for children, who are so impressionable, and what they see has a life-long effect on them. The Rebbe encouraged everyone to adopt this practice, and added that toys given to an infant should only be kosher animals, and even pictures drawn should be completely holy.5
Whenever it comes to teaching Torah, one can and should use non-kosher animals as well if that is the subject matter being discussed. Likewise, taking children to the zoo is also allowed and recommended, and a teacher can bring non-kosher animals and insects to the classroom, since this helps teach the children about the wonders of Hashem’s creation. Similarly, many shuls have pictures of a lion to represent the lesson we learn from it in our service of Hashem, i.e., to be strong like a lion.6
The Rebbe connected this heightened level of kedusha with preparing for the imminent Geula, when all impurity will be removed from the world.
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From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash