2012-01-25 / Local News

Helping others make a deeper spiritual connection with God

MEET SHARON PEARL…
By DAVID PORTNOE Voice staff

FAMILY:
Husband Norman and
two grown daughters,
Jessica & Diana

HOBBIES:
Singing, reading, exercising & hiking

FAVORITE BOOK:
“Jane Eyre”

FAVORITE FOODS:
Israeli salads & New
York cheesecake

FAVORITE DESTINATIONS: “Mountains—Catskills,
Galil in Israel, the
Poconos.”

Sharon Pearl has been on a spiritual journey for much of her adult life. She has been active in synagogues across the religious spectrum, finding the best each has to offer. Ultimately, she ended up at the Jewish Renewal community of P’nai Or in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia, where she regularly leads Shabbat services. She is a co-founder of Jewish in South Jersey, a havurah that meets monthly at the Collingswood Library. Jewish in South Jersey is the successor to the Jewish Renewal Havurah of South Jersey. Pearl also participates in a Rosh Chodesh group that meets monthly in the Cherry Hill area.

It was while leading services at P’nai Or that Pearl began to think about helping others find meaning and a Jewish sense of spirituality outside of the setting of formal Shabbat services. “I have begun a Hashpa’ah, a Jewish spiritual direction practice,” said Pearl. “It is a way to support seekers in their quest for deeper spiritual awareness either individually or in small groups,” she said. Pearl views it as an expansion of the type of experience she finds at P’nai Or.

Pearl, a professional speech therapist with a continuing practice in Cherry Hill, received a private smicha, ordination, in June as a Mashpiah Ruchanit, spiritual director, after three years of mentorship with Dr. Sandra Cohen.

“It’s a contemplative practice where an individual listens more deeply for God’s presence in his or her everyday activities and circumstances,” said Pearl, who meets monthly with the Mushpa, seeker. She said the goal is for her to ask discerning questions to see what God’s purpose is in the life of the spiritual seeker. Some of the central questions involve what God is asking of the person and how God can support him or her.

“Hashpa’ah is not for problem-solving, and it’s not therapy, and it’s not pastoral counseling,” said Pearl, a member of Spiritual Directors International, an organization that sets ethical guidelines.

Pearl pointed to classic Jewish texts for those asking the question as to whether what she does is Jewish. She said that passages such as: “Assume for yourself a master, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every man to the side of merit” (Pirke Avot 1:6); and “Acquire a companion for yourself… to reveal all your secrets, both in matters of Torah and in matters of the world” (Avot de-Rabbi Nathan), are indicative of the way spiritual direction can add meaning to Jewish ritual and practice. In her work, Pearl also leads and creates rituals for life’s events, including birthdays, moving, mourning, and others.

“Hashpa’ah grounds your practice with personal connection to God. They work hand-in-hand,” said Pearl. “My role is to clear myself as much as I can in order to listen deeply with the person for guidance.” .

Return to top