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I have often heard it said that there is a tradition amongst kabbalists not to own, play with or possibly even look at animals that are not kosher. Assuming that this is correct, my question is twofold:

1) I would like a source for this tradition;

2) I would like to know how it is that people deal with the Mishna, Shabbat 9:7. There, Rabbi Yehuda is quoted as noting that people used to give their children dead non-kosher grasshoppers to play with.

Just to be clear, I'm not looking to understand Rabbi Yehuda, whose opinion is not problematic for me. I want to know how religious Jews (might) have dealt with this passage, if it is true that they frown upon coming into contact with impure animals.

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Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/3044/472 –  Monica Cellio Oct 7 '12 at 0:38
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1 Answer 1

The Lubavitcher Rebbe strongly suggested (Sha'rey Halacha Uminhag Chelek Gimmel pg. 233, English translation here) that children not be surrounded by even pictures or toys of impure animals. He explains the tremendous impact visual stimuli has on a person's mind both for good and bad, and how children are particularly susceptible since the impressions formed in a child's tender mind will have potent affects when he is older. He brings a Halachic source for this (Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 198:48) that, "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". This is because looking at impure animals can have a harmful effect on an embryo and conversely viewing something sacred after immersion has a beneficial effect on the embryo.

[It should be noted there are numerous exceptions to this, several being noted in footnotes to the Sicha above; for example visiting a zoo is permitted as this affords the child the opportunity to ponder the greatness of Hashem.]

With regards to your question from the Mishna in Shabbos: Not showing children impure animals is not a Halachic issue but rather a matter of hashkafa. R' Yehuda is not advocating the practice of children playing with non-Kosher grasshoppers; he is noting the Halachic implication of what common practise was to do so.

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Thank you - the footnotes there provide further sources. Unfortunately, nothing that the Lubavitcher Rebbe there writes deals with the second half of my question. If anything, it makes that second half even stronger! If it is so important, in his opinion and in the texts that he cites, to avoid showing children non-kosher animals, how might people who abstain from doing so understand the mishna in Shabbat 9:7? –  Shimon bM Oct 6 '12 at 13:14
    
(By the way, the passage that he cites from the Shulchan Arukh is interesting for other reasons as well, but I think its connection to this issue is tenuous. It was evidently believed that thoughts at the moment of conception influenced the appearance of unborn children - hence Rabbi Yohanan waiting outside miqva'ot; hence Yaakov Avinu showing speckled rods to his uncle's goats; etc.) –  Shimon bM Oct 6 '12 at 13:17
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