Spiritual Direction

Temple Beth-El of City Island is unique in its commitment to experiential spirituality. Not only are our services a blend of traditional liturgy and spiritual innovation, but we also are the only synagogue all of whose clergy are ordained spiritual directors.

Please read this page for an introduction to spiritual direction and the background of your clergy as spiritual directors. Members are welcome to contact Rabbi Shohama to learn more about whether spiritual direction might be right for them.

What is Spiritual Direction?

460371Spiritual direction is the art and practice of discerning the flow of holiness in and through one’s life. Spiritual direction evolved as a path of spiritual deepening and development in numerous faith traditions. In the Jewish tradition, hashpa’ah (Hebrew for “spiritual direction”) describes the modality of strengthening the spiritual flow (shefa) through one’s life, with the assistance of a mashpi’a(h) (spiritual director) who serves as a guide and accompanier on this journey.

Hashpa’ah traces its lineage to Jewish practices that rose to prominence in the 17th and 18th centuries, with roots in medieval practices of musar (character development) and hitbonenut (contemplation). While hashpa’ah shares some intentions and commonalities with Christian and Buddhist spiritual direction, hashpa’ah focuses on adapting Jewish contexts and tools for the Jewish spiritual directee.

As with many spiritual journeys, hashpa’ah may traverse multiple realms of spiritual expression (e.g. prayer, text, theology, philosophy, family life, etc.) to deepen awareness of transcendence – God, holiness, Higher Mind – becoming immanent in one’s life. Hashpa’ah is a unique modality: it is not psychotherapy, social work or a Twelve Step Program, though all therapeutic and self-improvement paths do share some overall energetics.

Hashpa’ah sessions typically are monthly for one hour each, but can be longer and/or more frequent during intense periods of spiritual unfolding. Sessions can be either in individual form, in which a directee works one-on-one with the mashpi’a(h), or in group form, in which the mashpi’a(h) facilitates a small group that serves the spiritual unfolding of both each participant and the group as a whole. Sessions typically are “live” (face to face), but individual sessions also can be by video or phone – and some clients prefer this approach.

Hashpa’ah services are available to members on a fee basis after an initial consultation with Rabbi Shohama.

Spiritual Direction at TBE

Spiritual direction at TBE is available both for individuals and in monthly groups. These services are available to members at discounted rates. For individual sessions, TBE offers a sliding scale of $60 to $100 per session based on ability to pay. (Typical “market rates” are $120 for each individual session.)

TBE is unique in that all clergy are trained and certified as spiritual directors. All are members of Spiritual Directors International, the interfaith association for spiritual direction. Rabbi Shohama serves as intake coordinator for all congregants who feel called to explore whether individual spiritual direction may be right to them.

Photo Shohama '09Rabbi Shohama is among the Jewish world’s innovators of spiritual direction. She received the r’shut (permission and direction) of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi to develop hashpa’ah as a modality and an ordination program – work that grew out of her scholarship on this subject at the New York Theological Seminary, which awarded Rabbi Shohama a Doctor of Ministry for her original contribution to the field. Her doctoral work, in turn, matured into ALEPH’s three-year Hashpa’ah ordination program for Jewish spiritual directors. Rabbi Shohama is Founding Director of ALEPH’s Hashpa’ah Program and Rosh Hashpa’ah (Head of Spiritual Direction) for the ALEPH Ordination Programs, the only seminary in the Jewish world that requires spiritual direction for all clergy students for the duration of their studies. Rabbi Shohama also is co-editor of Seeking and Soaring: Jewish Approaches to Spiritual Direction, a seminal text for hashpa’ah practitioners and clients.

Rabbi DavidRabbi David received smicha (ordination) and certification as mashpi’a after completing ALEPH’s three-year Hashpa’ah training program. Rabbi David is an experienced spiritual guide whose clients include not only congregants but also clergy, clergy students and caregivers. Rabbi David’s hashpa’ah modalities include visualization and guided meditation, text, prayer and energy work; each session is tailored to the client’s personal interests and needs. Rabbi David’s academic work on spiritual direction includes Spirit and Soul, in Avenida Books (about integrating hashpa’ah into Jewish clergy education), and serving as faculty in meditation and esoteric practice for the ALEPH Ordination Programs.

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