Housekeeping and religion: More on Megeirot

Homemaking is a challenge for many Jewish women. Some people are just disorganized. Some did not have competent mothers, or mothers who ran an observant Jewish home, or mothers at all. Add a few small children and maybe a job, and you have a tremendous challenge.

Flylady has helped many make progress with their housework. But Flylady is American, English-speaking, and most definitely Christian. Megeirot filled the need for a supposedly Jewish approach to housekeeping. The problem is that the Torah doesn’t tell us much about cleaning drawers. So the bulk of Megeirot‘s content had to come from non-Jewish sources.

As a reader who completed the first “level” of Megeirot wrote in an email: “I liked the overlay of Jewish, spiritual goals achieved through standard cognitive – behavioral type exercises.” In other words, Megeirot consisted of Jewish concepts tacked on to a particular psychological approach. I have no problem with applying psychology in order to achieve a goal. But it’s not inherently Jewish.

Faith/Emuna wrote about attending Megeirot, where she was advised to ask for help from above when straightening out clutter. The idea of a personal prayer doesn’t disturb me, but saying someone else’s prayer might. Same with prayers said over a closet. I don’t know that religion should be mixed directly into everything.

According to the original article in Makor Rishon (Hebrew), Sylvie trained the instructors to negate the feelings a student expressed about the contents of her drawer. No matter what the student said, the instructor was told to tell her: “Sheker (falsehood), that is a statement of the ordinary sechel (intellect) which is your non-sechel. You don’t have any sechel.” Then the student recited a prayer, intended to redirect the woman’s thoughts. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones is a good idea, but telling a woman she has no sechel is not. At any rate, some instructors revised the methods, and even distanced themselves from Sylvie, the founder.

According to Makor Rishon, Rabbi Dov Lior of Kiryat Arba opposed Megeirot from the beginning and warned that it was not based on Jewish teachings. Later he and his wife worked with several women who had been harmed by Megeirot and Sylvie. Other rabbis felt the method had merit, despite the alleged faults of its founder.

We do need prayer, a connection with God, and a sense of higher purpose even when involved in mundane tasks. But we can also achieve spirituality through learning, serving the community, joyful observance of mitzvot, and caring for our families.

Megeirot appears to have helped many women. It probably served as a good support group, whether or not the content was problematic. Anytime people meet frequently with a competent counselor to discuss housekeeping, parenting, marriage, or dieting, they will improve in that area just because they are focusing on it. But when a method involves prayers, and marital and childrearing advice, one must be extremely careful about the person leading the group. Appearing religious and knowledgeable does not qualify someone to give sensitive advice. Even more importantly, a good counselor knows when to refer to a professional. Sylvie may not have taught every group but she was presumably the one instructors turned to for guidance in specific situations. And if the allegations about her are true, that’s scary.

Previous article on Megeirot

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Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    “What is not working in the organized religious community that would compel a woman to seek this kind of help and support?”
    Well, I can’t speak for every community, but in mine people are very clique-y and unwelcoming to new members and (sad to say) people in a lower economic class. It makes it very difficult to get together. Also, as a mother of three 2 year-olds it is just plain difficult to get out of the house for classes, playgroups, coffee clatches, etc. Which in turn makes for a very lonely existence. Sometimes an overwhelmingly lonely one.
    “If only there were more venues for women to get together and feel that sense of community, then the women who need it could be more discerning in their choices.”
    This is what I am working on in my own community. A rotating playdate at peoples homes. That way I don’t have to be “eagle eye” on the kids all the time since I know the home is child-proofed and can get a bit of adult conversation. Shockingly it is more difficult to accomplish that you would think.
    Klara, I think it is important to remember that everyone learns a lesson and incorporates it into their life in a different way. I am an ex-Flybaby (working to return to it, though) and in some groups I was in there were people who would do things EXACTLY as they were told. No deviations. Then there are people who adapt the program to fit into their lives and make it better. They become two different experiences. Kol tov!

  2. pickles says:

    I can see that many of your readers believe Judaism means keeping kosher, keeping Shabbat, going to shul, mikveh, trying to do acts of chesed, giving tzedakah, keeping shmita…..but when they hear about women working on their middot – somehow, this makes people very uncomfortable. They hear about a growing movement of women in megirot, who want to improve their middot and grow closer to Hashem (and as a result, their children and husbands also grow closer), well, it frankly seems to be making many people squirm in their seats. It’s much more comfortable to continue feeling angry, hostile, judgemental, impatient, inadequate, unworthy, frigtened, worried and more. People don’t like to change. The Torah wants us to grow and get rid of all those negativities in order to come closer to Hashem.
    And THAT is what megirot is. It is not a support group. It is not a movement that gives you advice about how to run your home. It is not a place for lonely/dysfunctional/depressed women to gather and hold each other up. It is a group of women discussing how to do avodat Hashem. Period.

  3. pickles says:

    I can see that many of your readers believe Judaism means keeping kosher, keeping Shabbat, going to shul, mikveh, trying to do acts of chesed, giving tzedakah, keeping shmita…..but when they hear about women working on their middot – somehow, this makes people very uncomfortable. They hear about a growing movement of women in megirot, who want to improve their middot and grow closer to Hashem (and as a result, their children and husbands also grow closer), well, it frankly seems to be making many people squirm in their seats. It’s much more comfortable to continue feeling angry, hostile, judgemental, impatient, inadequate, unworthy, frigtened, worried and more. People don’t like to change. The Torah wants us to grow and get rid of all those negativities in order to come closer to Hashem.
    And THAT is what megirot is. It is not a support group. It is not a movement that gives you advice about how to run your home. It is not a place for lonely/dysfunctional/depressed women to gather and hold each other up. It is a group of women discussing how to do avodat Hashem. Period.

  4. pickles says:

    I can see that many of your readers believe Judaism means keeping kosher, keeping Shabbat, going to shul, mikveh, trying to do acts of chesed, giving tzedakah, keeping shmita…..but when they hear about women working on their middot – somehow, this makes people very uncomfortable. They hear about a growing movement of women in megirot, who want to improve their middot and grow closer to Hashem (and as a result, their children and husbands also grow closer), well, it frankly seems to be making many people squirm in their seats. It’s much more comfortable to continue feeling angry, hostile, judgemental, impatient, inadequate, unworthy, frigtened, worried and more. People don’t like to change. The Torah wants us to grow and get rid of all those negativities in order to come closer to Hashem.
    And THAT is what megirot is. It is not a support group. It is not a movement that gives you advice about how to run your home. It is not a place for lonely/dysfunctional/depressed women to gather and hold each other up. It is a group of women discussing how to do avodat Hashem. Period.

  5. Working on your midos–fine. Looking for companionship among fellow women–fine. Trying to work out a problem and need a different perspective–fine. Slavish adherence to one person’s take on how to live–not so fine. An untrained woman playing authority figure–not so fine.
    What puzzles me is the whole basis for the megeirot “movement.” The contents of a drawer tell something about a person? In what universe! Which drawer? At what time of year? So if my nightgown drawer has all the contents folded to exactly the same dimension and lined up precisely then I must be too rigid in my thinking and need to let go? Or is it that I have X number of gowns and they all need to fit in the drawer so they have to be folded exactly? Or maybe I’m just a good nightgown folder? Or maybe nothing at all. Some of the drawers in our home are shared by and/or accessed by everyone in the house. Just what could they possibly tell anyone about me?

  6. Working on your midos–fine. Looking for companionship among fellow women–fine. Trying to work out a problem and need a different perspective–fine. Slavish adherence to one person’s take on how to live–not so fine. An untrained woman playing authority figure–not so fine.
    What puzzles me is the whole basis for the megeirot “movement.” The contents of a drawer tell something about a person? In what universe! Which drawer? At what time of year? So if my nightgown drawer has all the contents folded to exactly the same dimension and lined up precisely then I must be too rigid in my thinking and need to let go? Or is it that I have X number of gowns and they all need to fit in the drawer so they have to be folded exactly? Or maybe I’m just a good nightgown folder? Or maybe nothing at all. Some of the drawers in our home are shared by and/or accessed by everyone in the house. Just what could they possibly tell anyone about me?

  7. Working on your midos–fine. Looking for companionship among fellow women–fine. Trying to work out a problem and need a different perspective–fine. Slavish adherence to one person’s take on how to live–not so fine. An untrained woman playing authority figure–not so fine.
    What puzzles me is the whole basis for the megeirot “movement.” The contents of a drawer tell something about a person? In what universe! Which drawer? At what time of year? So if my nightgown drawer has all the contents folded to exactly the same dimension and lined up precisely then I must be too rigid in my thinking and need to let go? Or is it that I have X number of gowns and they all need to fit in the drawer so they have to be folded exactly? Or maybe I’m just a good nightgown folder? Or maybe nothing at all. Some of the drawers in our home are shared by and/or accessed by everyone in the house. Just what could they possibly tell anyone about me?

  8. mother in israel says:

    Lily, thank you for your thoughtful comment.
    Miriam, I hope you will find what you are looking for in your community.
    Pickles, I realize you were disturbed when some commenters speculated about Megeirot and/or its members in an attempt to understand the allegations in the newspaper. I ask you not to speculate about the readers (and writer?) of this blog. Being uncomfortable with Megeirot is not the same as not wanting to improve midot.
    Profk, I wonder. I think people can learn something about themselves by seeing which things they keep. But as you point out,there are limitations to such an approach.

  9. mother in israel says:

    Lily, thank you for your thoughtful comment.
    Miriam, I hope you will find what you are looking for in your community.
    Pickles, I realize you were disturbed when some commenters speculated about Megeirot and/or its members in an attempt to understand the allegations in the newspaper. I ask you not to speculate about the readers (and writer?) of this blog. Being uncomfortable with Megeirot is not the same as not wanting to improve midot.
    Profk, I wonder. I think people can learn something about themselves by seeing which things they keep. But as you point out,there are limitations to such an approach.

  10. mother in israel says:

    Lily, thank you for your thoughtful comment.
    Miriam, I hope you will find what you are looking for in your community.
    Pickles, I realize you were disturbed when some commenters speculated about Megeirot and/or its members in an attempt to understand the allegations in the newspaper. I ask you not to speculate about the readers (and writer?) of this blog. Being uncomfortable with Megeirot is not the same as not wanting to improve midot.
    Profk, I wonder. I think people can learn something about themselves by seeing which things they keep. But as you point out,there are limitations to such an approach.

  11. pickles says:

    Hmmmmm…..I hate to tell you this, but megirot does not involve enslavement to one person’a take on how to live life. We all have free choice, and if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Yes, work on your middot is very difficult. You can’t change by not taking some concrete steps. Anger and jealousy doesn’t just disappear in a poof. Anyone can choose whatever method they want to work on their middot. If you don’t like the megirot system, find something else. But for people to put other people down (and the system they use), well that borders on haughtiness. Why not open up Mesillat Yesharim? It’s a fantastic sefer.

  12. pickles says:

    Hmmmmm…..I hate to tell you this, but megirot does not involve enslavement to one person’a take on how to live life. We all have free choice, and if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Yes, work on your middot is very difficult. You can’t change by not taking some concrete steps. Anger and jealousy doesn’t just disappear in a poof. Anyone can choose whatever method they want to work on their middot. If you don’t like the megirot system, find something else. But for people to put other people down (and the system they use), well that borders on haughtiness. Why not open up Mesillat Yesharim? It’s a fantastic sefer.

  13. pickles says:

    Hmmmmm…..I hate to tell you this, but megirot does not involve enslavement to one person’a take on how to live life. We all have free choice, and if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. Yes, work on your middot is very difficult. You can’t change by not taking some concrete steps. Anger and jealousy doesn’t just disappear in a poof. Anyone can choose whatever method they want to work on their middot. If you don’t like the megirot system, find something else. But for people to put other people down (and the system they use), well that borders on haughtiness. Why not open up Mesillat Yesharim? It’s a fantastic sefer.

  14. pickles–
    “Hashem IS everywhere! The religious Jew even makes a bracha (blessing) after using the bathroom. We make many brachos throughout the day and yes, we CAN ask Hashem to help us find a parking spot or get a good bargain. I am sorry to hear that you feel Hashem only belongs in the shul (synagogue)or when you open your siddur (prayerbrook).”
    Recognizing Hashem’s providence in all areas of life is one thing; davvening for a parking spot is another. It’s not necessarily a good thing to davven for every little detail, Hashem has His plan, and who are we to say which parking spot is “good” or “bad” for us? Or which deal, etc. IMO praying for those things is trying to micromanage Hashem’s world.
    Also, I can’t imagine a tzaddik caring enough about a parking spot or any other trivial physical object to REALLY davven in the way we should be davvening, and IMO if it’s not the way of tzaddikim it’s not something any of us should encourage in ourselves. Instead of praying for a parking spot, we should realize how ultimately inconsequential the extra 3-minute walk to the store is, and pray for a sick neighbor instead. Praying for shtus, inconsequential things, just trivializes the prayer itself and our relationship with Hashem, which is about so so so much more than getting a better deal on a new pair of shoes or whatever.

  15. pickles–
    “Hashem IS everywhere! The religious Jew even makes a bracha (blessing) after using the bathroom. We make many brachos throughout the day and yes, we CAN ask Hashem to help us find a parking spot or get a good bargain. I am sorry to hear that you feel Hashem only belongs in the shul (synagogue)or when you open your siddur (prayerbrook).”
    Recognizing Hashem’s providence in all areas of life is one thing; davvening for a parking spot is another. It’s not necessarily a good thing to davven for every little detail, Hashem has His plan, and who are we to say which parking spot is “good” or “bad” for us? Or which deal, etc. IMO praying for those things is trying to micromanage Hashem’s world.
    Also, I can’t imagine a tzaddik caring enough about a parking spot or any other trivial physical object to REALLY davven in the way we should be davvening, and IMO if it’s not the way of tzaddikim it’s not something any of us should encourage in ourselves. Instead of praying for a parking spot, we should realize how ultimately inconsequential the extra 3-minute walk to the store is, and pray for a sick neighbor instead. Praying for shtus, inconsequential things, just trivializes the prayer itself and our relationship with Hashem, which is about so so so much more than getting a better deal on a new pair of shoes or whatever.

  16. pickles–
    “Hashem IS everywhere! The religious Jew even makes a bracha (blessing) after using the bathroom. We make many brachos throughout the day and yes, we CAN ask Hashem to help us find a parking spot or get a good bargain. I am sorry to hear that you feel Hashem only belongs in the shul (synagogue)or when you open your siddur (prayerbrook).”
    Recognizing Hashem’s providence in all areas of life is one thing; davvening for a parking spot is another. It’s not necessarily a good thing to davven for every little detail, Hashem has His plan, and who are we to say which parking spot is “good” or “bad” for us? Or which deal, etc. IMO praying for those things is trying to micromanage Hashem’s world.
    Also, I can’t imagine a tzaddik caring enough about a parking spot or any other trivial physical object to REALLY davven in the way we should be davvening, and IMO if it’s not the way of tzaddikim it’s not something any of us should encourage in ourselves. Instead of praying for a parking spot, we should realize how ultimately inconsequential the extra 3-minute walk to the store is, and pray for a sick neighbor instead. Praying for shtus, inconsequential things, just trivializes the prayer itself and our relationship with Hashem, which is about so so so much more than getting a better deal on a new pair of shoes or whatever.

  17. Ora, you make a valid point – while Hashem controls even the most trivial aspects of our lives, we should understand that it’s not matim to pray for every little thing.
    We’re supposed to do our hishtadlus, pray for strength when things are hard, and accept the little hardships as a challenge from hashem. It’s hard to do this, but it seems slightly absurd to pray for something as trivial as a better parking space or the ability to clean out a drawer in your house
    .

  18. Ora, you make a valid point – while Hashem controls even the most trivial aspects of our lives, we should understand that it’s not matim to pray for every little thing.
    We’re supposed to do our hishtadlus, pray for strength when things are hard, and accept the little hardships as a challenge from hashem. It’s hard to do this, but it seems slightly absurd to pray for something as trivial as a better parking space or the ability to clean out a drawer in your house
    .

  19. Ora, you make a valid point – while Hashem controls even the most trivial aspects of our lives, we should understand that it’s not matim to pray for every little thing.
    We’re supposed to do our hishtadlus, pray for strength when things are hard, and accept the little hardships as a challenge from hashem. It’s hard to do this, but it seems slightly absurd to pray for something as trivial as a better parking space or the ability to clean out a drawer in your house
    .

  20. Whoa, i’ve come back to some heavy topics.
    I’d just like to chime in and say that I had a friend who was suffering some serious marital difficulties and unfortunately tried to solve them through this program. Needless to say, it didn’t work. I’d like to hope that at least the group of women provided her with some kind of solace, but I see that even that might not be the case, which makes me even angrier.
    I think groups like this, lead by charismatic leaders, can distract or delay many women from getting real help for marriage problems, depression and other serious issues. You can’t cure depression by working on middot. And a woman who believes she can fix her marriage by only working on her own middot (and not working in tandem with her husband on the range of issues that are probably plaguing the marriage) is doomed to failure.

  21. Whoa, i’ve come back to some heavy topics.
    I’d just like to chime in and say that I had a friend who was suffering some serious marital difficulties and unfortunately tried to solve them through this program. Needless to say, it didn’t work. I’d like to hope that at least the group of women provided her with some kind of solace, but I see that even that might not be the case, which makes me even angrier.
    I think groups like this, lead by charismatic leaders, can distract or delay many women from getting real help for marriage problems, depression and other serious issues. You can’t cure depression by working on middot. And a woman who believes she can fix her marriage by only working on her own middot (and not working in tandem with her husband on the range of issues that are probably plaguing the marriage) is doomed to failure.

  22. Whoa, i’ve come back to some heavy topics.
    I’d just like to chime in and say that I had a friend who was suffering some serious marital difficulties and unfortunately tried to solve them through this program. Needless to say, it didn’t work. I’d like to hope that at least the group of women provided her with some kind of solace, but I see that even that might not be the case, which makes me even angrier.
    I think groups like this, lead by charismatic leaders, can distract or delay many women from getting real help for marriage problems, depression and other serious issues. You can’t cure depression by working on middot. And a woman who believes she can fix her marriage by only working on her own middot (and not working in tandem with her husband on the range of issues that are probably plaguing the marriage) is doomed to failure.

  23. faith/emuna says:

    although i should really let this subject die out, i feel i owe it as hakarat hatov to leave one more comment. after some time has passed i feel i can write with some perscpective.
    it disappoints me that people read an excerpt of an article and then make judgement calls on a subject they know so little about. i found the tone of some of the comments hurtful.
    there are probably thousands of woman who went to megeirot who had no contact with sylvie, who did not go to the shiurim for therapy, but to learn a tool to cope with improving their middot, life as a jewish mother, and organizing from the inside out. i found the assumptions of what type of woman would be interested in it insulting.
    if the article is true then there were alot of scary, terriable and dangerous things going on. im sure there are those who disagree (respectfuly, i hope ), but i feel that there is what to be learnt from the method.
    prof k – no one is asking you to analyze your drawers. and in megeirot you choose which drawer is bothering you. if your happy with your nightgown drawer, great! if not, only you can answer what it might symbolize. your sleeping habits? your choice of sleepware? somthing else? only you can answer, and one only chooses a drawer that bothers them. and yes you might be happy with a drawer now and in a few months from now not and then do the drawer. you may do the same drawer many times and some not at all.
    megierot doesnt recruit people and obviously its not for everyone. its interesting that people are so open minded about other things yet so angry about this.
    about tfila, i would appreciate anyone who can help me find halachik sources that limit what we ask hashem about. the breslov philosophy is that one asks hashem for everything and i would like to know if there are halchik sources that negate that philosophy.
    everyone is invited to respond or not, i just ask for common courtesy, that you should not be insulting.

  24. faith/emuna says:

    although i should really let this subject die out, i feel i owe it as hakarat hatov to leave one more comment. after some time has passed i feel i can write with some perscpective.
    it disappoints me that people read an excerpt of an article and then make judgement calls on a subject they know so little about. i found the tone of some of the comments hurtful.
    there are probably thousands of woman who went to megeirot who had no contact with sylvie, who did not go to the shiurim for therapy, but to learn a tool to cope with improving their middot, life as a jewish mother, and organizing from the inside out. i found the assumptions of what type of woman would be interested in it insulting.
    if the article is true then there were alot of scary, terriable and dangerous things going on. im sure there are those who disagree (respectfuly, i hope ), but i feel that there is what to be learnt from the method.
    prof k – no one is asking you to analyze your drawers. and in megeirot you choose which drawer is bothering you. if your happy with your nightgown drawer, great! if not, only you can answer what it might symbolize. your sleeping habits? your choice of sleepware? somthing else? only you can answer, and one only chooses a drawer that bothers them. and yes you might be happy with a drawer now and in a few months from now not and then do the drawer. you may do the same drawer many times and some not at all.
    megierot doesnt recruit people and obviously its not for everyone. its interesting that people are so open minded about other things yet so angry about this.
    about tfila, i would appreciate anyone who can help me find halachik sources that limit what we ask hashem about. the breslov philosophy is that one asks hashem for everything and i would like to know if there are halchik sources that negate that philosophy.
    everyone is invited to respond or not, i just ask for common courtesy, that you should not be insulting.

  25. faith/emuna says:

    although i should really let this subject die out, i feel i owe it as hakarat hatov to leave one more comment. after some time has passed i feel i can write with some perscpective.
    it disappoints me that people read an excerpt of an article and then make judgement calls on a subject they know so little about. i found the tone of some of the comments hurtful.
    there are probably thousands of woman who went to megeirot who had no contact with sylvie, who did not go to the shiurim for therapy, but to learn a tool to cope with improving their middot, life as a jewish mother, and organizing from the inside out. i found the assumptions of what type of woman would be interested in it insulting.
    if the article is true then there were alot of scary, terriable and dangerous things going on. im sure there are those who disagree (respectfuly, i hope ), but i feel that there is what to be learnt from the method.
    prof k – no one is asking you to analyze your drawers. and in megeirot you choose which drawer is bothering you. if your happy with your nightgown drawer, great! if not, only you can answer what it might symbolize. your sleeping habits? your choice of sleepware? somthing else? only you can answer, and one only chooses a drawer that bothers them. and yes you might be happy with a drawer now and in a few months from now not and then do the drawer. you may do the same drawer many times and some not at all.
    megierot doesnt recruit people and obviously its not for everyone. its interesting that people are so open minded about other things yet so angry about this.
    about tfila, i would appreciate anyone who can help me find halachik sources that limit what we ask hashem about. the breslov philosophy is that one asks hashem for everything and i would like to know if there are halchik sources that negate that philosophy.
    everyone is invited to respond or not, i just ask for common courtesy, that you should not be insulting.

  26. mother in israel says:

    Faith, I’m glad you came back to comment. I basically agree with you–I’m sure that many women only benefited from megeirot. And we need to be skeptical about newspaper articles, but we also need to be cautious about the people we let into our lives.
    And I echo your request that people comment respectfully and avoid generalizations.

  27. mother in israel says:

    Faith, I’m glad you came back to comment. I basically agree with you–I’m sure that many women only benefited from megeirot. And we need to be skeptical about newspaper articles, but we also need to be cautious about the people we let into our lives.
    And I echo your request that people comment respectfully and avoid generalizations.

  28. mother in israel says:

    Faith, I’m glad you came back to comment. I basically agree with you–I’m sure that many women only benefited from megeirot. And we need to be skeptical about newspaper articles, but we also need to be cautious about the people we let into our lives.
    And I echo your request that people comment respectfully and avoid generalizations.

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