Through spiritual direction, rabbinical students cultivate their ability to discern God’s Presence in their lives — to notice and appreciate moments of holiness, to maintain an awareness of the interconnectedness of all things and to explore ways to be open to the Blessed Holy One in challenging and difficult moments as well as in joyful ones. This is not like therapy or pastoral counseling. The goal is not to solve problems; it is to cultivate an experiential faith. The spiritual director serves as a companion and witness — someone who helps you (sometimes with questions, sometimes just by listening) to discern the divine where you might have missed it, and to integrate that awareness into your daily life, your tefillah, your tikkun olam work, your study, your ritual practice.
Students may choose to participate in the Spiritual Direction Program. In this program, the student chooses from among the College’s Spiritual Directors. The student and their spiritual director meet for 10 one-hour monthly meetings. Successful completion of the program earns the student ¼ Elective Course Credit.
RRC’s spiritual directors have been trained in the art of contemplative listening and of discerning the way the divine shows up in our lives. They each meet regularly with their own spiritual director and are also in supervision that explores how the divine shows up in their work as spiritual director. None of them are on the College faculty because everything they hear is held in strictest confidentiality and non-judgmentally; they therefore can have absolutely no input into the evaluation of their directees.
Spiritual Direction and Reconstructionism
Spiritual direction also helps us all to overcome any discomfort we may have with talking about God. We are Reconstructionists. Many of us don’t believe in a supernatural God who intervenes miraculously in our lives, is aware of our thoughts and prayers, or directs the course of human history. From this approach, God is present in the processes of nature and of our internal journeys. We say, for example, that we make God manifest when we act according to divine predicates (ultimate values). But to say it is not necessarily to mean it with our total being. The awareness of God’s Presence is something that can be experienced as well as affirmed, and a relationship with the Holy One needs to be cultivated no less than a relationship with people. Spiritual direction is a means of that cultivation.
Different Spiritual Types
The term spiritual is used to mean many different things. We use it here with the conviction that there are many different spiritual types. Some people connect spiritually via Talmud Torah and cognitive learning; others, emotionally and devotionally, through prayer, song and contemplation; others, through action—via interpersonal relationships, through tikkun olam (social justice) work, or through acts of gemilut hasadim; still others, iconoclastically, i.e., by seeing through the relative truth of all spiritual paths and holding fast to an inexpressible absolute. Some connect through art and aesthetics; others, through family; and still others, in an appreciation of nature.
We define spirituality as the part of one’s internal life in which one reaches upward and inward to deepen awareness of the transcendent and immanent dimensions of reality, so that one develops a greater sense of one’s place in the larger universe, and a deeper sense of the sanctity of all existence, particularly as it infuses all of one’s actions in the world. None of us is a pure spiritual type, and each of us moves through different spiritual types at different stages of the journey. The spiritual director accompanies each of us through our unique journey, without imposing ideas or practices of their own.
Choosing a Spiritual Director
Choosing a director is not about finding someone with whom you share a perspective or someone you would like to emulate. It is about finding someone with whom you can be open about your own journey. Spiritual direction literature often recommends that you find a director who is a different gender, at a different stage of the life cycle, and of a different spiritual type. The experience of many students has confirmed the wisdom of this recommendation.