On the telephone was a sticker warning against lashon hara.
On the fridge hung a magnet warning against lashon hara.
Some homes even had an anti-lashon hara reminder on the front door.
It was also clear to me that it was the woman of the house who was so concerned about lashon hara.
In fact, I initially assumed that the Chafetz Chaim wrote his celebrated sefer for women!
I was shocked to discover that he'd written it as a general guide for all Jews, which was initially only studied by men.
It's very much to the credit of Jewish women that they embraced this sefer with so much heartfelt devotion & commitment.
Anyway, seeing these little stickers and magnets made a deep impression on me, even without me consciously realizing it at the time.
It impressed upon me the importance of the laws of lashon hara, which take profound discipline, emuna, and concern for others in order to uphold them.
And I noticed this same effect on many, many of my peers.
Again, the fact that Jewish women devoted themselves to an area of Jewish Law that demands such intense discipline, emuna, and compassion for others is a tremendous zechut for Am Yisrael.
Even when people stumbled in this area, it was still clear that lashon hara was a very big deal and not an area to be ignored.
When forging my identity as a Jewish woman, the halachot of lashon hara were an innate part of that new identity (even as I sometimes resented or misunderstood their boundaries).
Because of those female-applied stickers and magnets.
Now, this doesn't mean that I didn't trip up in this area.
But I was motivated to review the halachot and strive to uphold them BECAUSE of their importance and significance to the frum community.
And because I saw frum women discussing the halachot in casual conversation, because I saw stickers and magnets applied by frum women, and because I saw frum women accepting upon themselves certain hours to be exactingly makpid against speaking lashon hara and voluntarily participating in quizzes to strengthen their knowledge of lashon hara, it became part of my identity too — just like covering my hair after marriage or wearing long skirts or lighting Shabbat candles.
(Not that I was or am perfect about stuff, but it did give me a strong start AND the awareness to do teshuvah later on the areas in which I messed up.)
In other words, these magnets and stickers made an impact beyond their flimsy little appearance and were in fact, a tremendous kiddush Hashem.
A Little Bit Goes a VERY Long Way
When these women initially stuck the stickers and magnets onto their appliances, what were they thinking?
Well, they were probably concerned with their own spiritual avodah.
They were probably concerned that their other families benefit from these little reminders.
And they likely wanted to create a certain "We're careful about lashon hara" atmosphere for their children for reasons of chinuch.
Did any of them think that their little stickers and magnets were making a profound kiddush Hashem?
Did they have any idea that their little stickers and magnets played a part in forging the identity for me and countless other Jewish girls?
Think about it.
If I just stood at someone's door to pick up or drop off something for a moment, and the door was open wide enough for me to see the telephone on its little stand with a sticker on it — a sticker that I couldn't really read from that distance, but recognized it by it's white background and little red "forbidden" sign — then that was yet another (often unconscious) impression that this area of Torah was vitally important to the common Jew...and especially to the common Jewish woman.
So all the Jewish women with their little stickers and magnets actually made a tremendous kiddush Hashem and helped forge the feminine Jewish identity for countless Jewish women, especially those new to Torah Judaism.
And if you were or are one of those women with those stickers, signs, and magnets posted around, then this means YOU.
Thank you, and yashar ko'ach.
Upside-Down World: The Little Things Can Actually be the Most Important
I mean, if you're good at doing eye-popping stuff and you can be that way for Hashem, then that's apparently what He wants you to do with your Amazon Superwoman kochot and your life.
So go for it with hatzlacha & bracha!
But what if you're not like that?
I remember reading a frum self-help book in which many stories of self-improvement ended with the person establishing and running an organization.
Like that was the moral of the story: Establish & run an organization.
Personally? The thought of establishing and running an organization makes me want to crawl under my blanket and never come out again.
In other words: way too overwhelming & stressful.
Huge gestures cannot be the only or even most lauded lesson of self-improvement stories. (They are simply more interesting to read about than small gestures.)
It's all about what Hashem sees, and not about what is really impressive in the eyes of society.
But just living your life according to halachah and continually striving to improve yourself is NO LESS AMAZING than being a frum Amazon Superwoman.
Your small yet sincere acts DO make a huge difference.
It makes a difference in Shamayim, and it also impacts your fellow Jews in positive ways you may never have imagined.
There's so much that we don't know, so much that we can't see, so it's vitally important to keep on going with the seemingly "small" stuff and our baby-steps (which are often actually massive leaps in the Upper Worlds).