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If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir

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At the age of 27, alone in Jerusalem in the wake of a painful divorce, Ilana Kurshan joined the world s largest book club, learning daf yomi, Hebrew for daily page" of the Talmud, a book of rabbinic teachings spanning about 600 years and the basis for all codes of Jewish law. A runner, a reader and a romantic, Kurshan adapted to its pace, attuned her ear to its poetry, and At the age of 27, alone in Jerusalem in the wake of a painful divorce, Ilana Kurshan joined the world s largest book club, learning daf yomi, Hebrew for daily page" of the Talmud, a book of rabbinic teachings spanning about 600 years and the basis for all codes of Jewish law. A runner, a reader and a romantic, Kurshan adapted to its pace, attuned her ear to its poetry, and discovered her passions in its pages. She brought the Talmud with her wherever she went, studying in airplanes, supermarket lines, and over a plate of pasta at home, careful not to drip tomato sauce upon discussions about the sprinkling of blood on the Temple altar. By the time she completed the Talmud after seven and a half years, Kurshan was remarried with three young children. With each pregnancy, her Talmud sat perched atop her growing belly. This memoir is a tale of heartache and humor, of love and loss, of marriage and motherhood, and of learning to put one foot in front of the other by turning page after page. Kurshan takes us on a deeply accessible and personal guided tour of the Talmud, shedding new light on its stories and offering insights into its arguments both for those already familiar with the text and for those who have never encountered it. For people of the book both Jewish and non-Jewish If All the Seas Were Ink is a celebration of learning through literature how to fall in love once again.


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At the age of 27, alone in Jerusalem in the wake of a painful divorce, Ilana Kurshan joined the world s largest book club, learning daf yomi, Hebrew for daily page" of the Talmud, a book of rabbinic teachings spanning about 600 years and the basis for all codes of Jewish law. A runner, a reader and a romantic, Kurshan adapted to its pace, attuned her ear to its poetry, and At the age of 27, alone in Jerusalem in the wake of a painful divorce, Ilana Kurshan joined the world s largest book club, learning daf yomi, Hebrew for daily page" of the Talmud, a book of rabbinic teachings spanning about 600 years and the basis for all codes of Jewish law. A runner, a reader and a romantic, Kurshan adapted to its pace, attuned her ear to its poetry, and discovered her passions in its pages. She brought the Talmud with her wherever she went, studying in airplanes, supermarket lines, and over a plate of pasta at home, careful not to drip tomato sauce upon discussions about the sprinkling of blood on the Temple altar. By the time she completed the Talmud after seven and a half years, Kurshan was remarried with three young children. With each pregnancy, her Talmud sat perched atop her growing belly. This memoir is a tale of heartache and humor, of love and loss, of marriage and motherhood, and of learning to put one foot in front of the other by turning page after page. Kurshan takes us on a deeply accessible and personal guided tour of the Talmud, shedding new light on its stories and offering insights into its arguments both for those already familiar with the text and for those who have never encountered it. For people of the book both Jewish and non-Jewish If All the Seas Were Ink is a celebration of learning through literature how to fall in love once again.

30 review for If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir

  1. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Ilana Kurshan makes studying the Talmud - ( a vast compendium of Jewish Law and narrative dating back to the first few centuries of the Common Era), sound like a piece of cake - anybody can do it - male - female - Jew - or - non-Jew. I mean, all that’s required is study of one daily page a day called “daf yomi”.... or more accurately translated as “daily folio”..... since every page of the Talmud consists of two sides, back and front.....and it will only take seven and a half years. Like I said.. Ilana Kurshan makes studying the Talmud - ( a vast compendium of Jewish Law and narrative dating back to the first few centuries of the Common Era), sound like a piece of cake - anybody can do it - male - female - Jew - or - non-Jew. I mean, all that’s required is study of one daily page a day called “daf yomi”.... or more accurately translated as “daily folio”..... since every page of the Talmud consists of two sides, back and front.....and it will only take seven and a half years. Like I said.... a piece of cake!!! Ha! Don’t kid yourself.... even if the daily reading is easy, don’t think for one minute responsibility doesn’t come along as part of the deal. From way back - Jews have been taught - learning for the sake of learning is not enough- we must pass on knowledge - it’s our responsibility to teach what we learn. I swear every Jew gets it tattooed on their tush at birth along side the ‘guilt’ tattoo. And the Talmud.... well, if it were THAT easy - more people would take on the seven and a half year challenge. After-all - it can’t be ‘much’ different than the challenge of running a marathon- or GOODREADS YEARLY BOOK CHALLENGE... could it? Ha! Ilana said...."I’d spent my whole life reading books, but here was a book I could imagine spending my whole life reading". WOW! The rest of her life reading ONE BOOK! I spent a year studying Torah daily - ‘once’ in my life. Mostly it was a Hebrew intensive before becoming an adult in the eyes of God. I admit, the more I learned- and the better I got with my Hebrew - I started to love my study hours...... ‘hours’ a day. However — it didn’t take too long until 𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞 return to normal. Easy learn - easy forget. Use it - or loose it. I lost most of it. I DID ENJOY A GOOD 60% of this memoir A LOT..... but the 40% where I started to drift off - forcing myself to re-read sentences — I didn’t enjoy as much. I didn’t want to read a textbook. Interesting - it was the little things I enjoyed best - ( I just noticed THE BLURB stole MY review- haha.....they mentioned the FUN PARTS).....Sure, I LOVED ALL THOSE PARTS IN THIS BOOK TOO. I could have used a nap however when religious education got too detailed. I am not committing to reading the Talmud. I read a 1 star review that was NOT accurate though....(thought I might comment on it here).... Ilana talked about her first experience at the International book fairs in Frankfurt and London. She was pretty excited to be there....meeting authors like Hilary Mantel, etc. Ilana worked for a small literary agency in Jerusalem where she sold foreign rights to Israeli publishers. The reviewer said, “The international book Festival’s were full of well-dressed, smoking Germans, who forced her to wear high heels and dress to attend ‘their’ festivals”. Ilana commented on how well people were dressed, ( not her preferred comfort way of dress), but nobody forced her to wear high heels. What she DID LOVE about the book festival ( Frankfurt International being the worlds oldest and largest, dating back over 500 years), was the setup of the exhibition halls. A different floor was devoted to each country. —Along those aisles, each publisher or agency set up a booth to exhibit there recent and forthcoming books. I never felt Ilana was bitching about being at the book festival at all. Other little parts I enjoyed....... IIana was a runner and reader from way back. When she was in High School - and ran with a team- she carried a poem in her pocket that she had memorized and recited it as she ran. I thought that was a very cool idea. I enjoyed reading about Ilana’s life - her struggles and joys - her passions: books, her enjoyment of studying the Talmud, her husband, children, friends, running, how religion was a part of her soul, living in Israel as an immigrant from America, her education ( Harvard), her work...and personal glimpses into her inner thoughts. Even though I wanted to nap during Talmud study itself....This is a fascinating book.... Ilana Kurshan is an inspiring woman. Oh My Goodness..... and..... That Book Cover.....is GORGEOUS!!!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jan Rice

    Freud famously said that dreams are the royal road to the unconscious, but I soon came to see that the snippet of song replaying in my brain is also the royal road, or whatever is preoccupying me or demanding my attention. Even nicking my finger while chopping vegetables is the royal road, as I wrote somewhere else. In this memoir, the daf yomi -- the page-a-day-times-seven-years study of the Talmud -- becomes the author's way of living, understanding, and handling her life and according it with Freud famously said that dreams are the royal road to the unconscious, but I soon came to see that the snippet of song replaying in my brain is also the royal road, or whatever is preoccupying me or demanding my attention. Even nicking my finger while chopping vegetables is the royal road, as I wrote somewhere else. In this memoir, the daf yomi -- the page-a-day-times-seven-years study of the Talmud -- becomes the author's way of living, understanding, and handling her life and according it with God's will. But, similar to dreams and the "royal road," could any book(s) or course of study serve that function? I do think other reading and forms of study could accomplish the aim. Why is that? Because when we gaze outward at the world, it reflects back to us what we need to pay attention to. We see ourselves in the mirror it provides, which suggests our cult of individualism is not the be-all and end-all. We are not as separate as we think. Yet the discipline of simultaneous study with a large group and according to a specific tradition is powerful and not to be minimized. I myself haven't taken up daf yomi. However, I do think this book supports the value of book clubs and study groups in general. Some of the biblical translations are the author's own. She has her BA from Harvard and M. Phil (English literature) from Cambridge, and she works as a translator and editor as well as being a writer. Around ten years ago I read a novel (You or Someone Like You) that postulated that the study of Judaism was a restriction from which one ought to seek freedom by leaving it for the Western canon. That book failed to recognize that every area of study is just that: an area of study. You don't just escape something without entering something else. I'm glad Ilana Kurshan doesn't observe those barriers. She brings books from the Western canon right into the mix. Also hers is a woman's voice. Areas of focus include so-called women's topics -- romance, marriage, children -- that were front and center in her life along the way. Deal with it!* (*That "deal with it" may sound feisty or in-your-face but is, I expect, a case of "the best defense is a good offense." It's difficult to say when one is dealing with one's internalized society as opposed to external forces, that is, where the internal leaves off and the external begins. I think I'll just leave it in, though, if that's where I am. Deal with it! 😮) Moreover, this is a book about religion. I especially appreciated what she wrote about prayer toward the end of the book. Although I enjoyed the book right from the start, I got more into it, stopping and taking notes, as it went on. So I may go right back to the beginning and start over. The author explains the title is from an 11th century poem that's part of Shavuot liturgy. Shavuot celebrates the giving of Torah. Greek translation: Pentecost, which for Christians morphed into the receiving of the Holy Spirit. God's eternal glory could not be described even if the heavens were parchment, and the forests quills; if all the seas were ink, as well as every gathered water; even if the earth's inhabitants were scribes and recorders of initials.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Ilana Diamant

    Yet another self-indulgent memoir of privileged and arrogant Ivy League youth that finds no meaning in her comfortable Manhattan community neither in Judaism nor in the wider humanity itself, not until she moves to Jerusalem and starts "learning" Talmud. Not studying Talmud, rather, 'learning' is the author's preferred term, as if Yiddishisms are necessary to make it a genuine experience. Every chapter is full of contrived humor attempts that render none of her narratives funny (I'm learning Tal Yet another self-indulgent memoir of privileged and arrogant Ivy League youth that finds no meaning in her comfortable Manhattan community neither in Judaism nor in the wider humanity itself, not until she moves to Jerusalem and starts "learning" Talmud. Not studying Talmud, rather, 'learning' is the author's preferred term, as if Yiddishisms are necessary to make it a genuine experience. Every chapter is full of contrived humor attempts that render none of her narratives funny (I'm learning Talmud while swimming in the pool! and while jogging in Jerusalem's alleys, aren't I funny/amazing). Most the author's experiences seem contrived too, "just coinciding" with whatever she's been reading (sorry, learning) on Talmud at that time: her marriage collapses while she's studying the Jewish divorce laws in Talmud, she falls in love while she just happens to be studying about the courtship and mating rituals...every page is full of such contrived coincidences aiming at proving that the author's life is perfectly and miraculously aligned with the Talmud /Daf Yomi schedule spanning over 7 yrs! God forbid she should have an experience that falls out of the Daf Yomi timetable! that would render it meaningless for sure. An extra helping of ridiculousness: when the author is too distracted to notice a bunch of stray dogs chasing her down the road and gets saved by a truck driver who stops to help her, it's not really the stranger's kindness that saves her, nor G-d, but the Torah itself, more powerful than G-d and humans, if we are to believe in Kurshan's drivel. I expect better from a talented writer.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    Its one of those mysteries, how this book survived multiple slashes to my TBR. I wouldn't have picked it up. I don't love memoirs, and really don't care for non-fiction. I find it tedious and hard to slog through. I would not have found the subject matter as enticing as it actually was. So for whatever the reason, it stayed on my TBR for a long time. When I heard at the beginning of 2019 that this would be the Jewish Book Club book for December I decided to join in. About the Jewish Book Club, i Its one of those mysteries, how this book survived multiple slashes to my TBR. I wouldn't have picked it up. I don't love memoirs, and really don't care for non-fiction. I find it tedious and hard to slog through. I would not have found the subject matter as enticing as it actually was. So for whatever the reason, it stayed on my TBR for a long time. When I heard at the beginning of 2019 that this would be the Jewish Book Club book for December I decided to join in. About the Jewish Book Club, its actually a ghost story. Did you know it is moderated by a ghost? The moderator does not answer emails or even look at any of the threads. No one can get a response from her and its been four years. She turns up once a year to post the book of the month for the following year. Usually Jews love to argue and discuss - we rarely ghost. Not this lady. She refuses email and hasn't responded to folks who want to help moderate and get it going. Some folks are mad, some are trying to help. Some got frustrated and gave up. I actually think its a little funny. Life is too short to get crazy over anything. But the one thing about the group site.... I may be the only one who ever reads and reviews the book of the month, but I sure have made some great friends. Not to mention, there are some outstanding and well known Jewish Authors, like cream of the crop ones who are a part of this site. May I ask you, for those in the know of this kind of literature, who in the hell ghosts Maggie Anton? My friends's synagogue had her speak, and the cover charge was exorbitant and well worth the price. Its a privilege to have her visit the site. But ghosts do not care for such things. But this one does post books once a year. So I am reviewing it. At least two or three people saw that I was reading it and was curious what I thought - so here goes. 3.5 and for me with non-fiction that is a pretty high rating. So what is this book about? This memoir is about a woman in Jerusalem, who takes on the task of reading Talmud daily, and how that helps her in her daily life. For those of you who aren't in the know, what this means is, that Jews all over the world, when they are learning and studying, they are always on the same page - literally. If you are a Christian, your church sermon might be on sin, or loss, or on Matthew for Job, or who knows what. A particular prophet, or world or spiritual issue or Christian concept. But for the Jews, if you attend services every weekend, or read the torah from cover to cover as we do every year, (just after the High Holidays we have a holiday where we read the last lines of Deuteronomy, and begin again at Genesis. This holiday is called Simchat Torah (Celebration of the Torah) where we celebrate its completion and beginning and proclaim the holiness of the torah in our lives. Well The point I am making, is that if you go to France, or Egypt, or Spain, or Australia, and you walk into a synagogue, anywhere in the world, we Jews all over the world are reading the very same passage of Torah on shabbat. Each Shabbat is a different section of Torah and it takes a year to complete it. Well the same is true with the Talmud. That there is a 7.5 year cycle of daily learning to complete the entire set of tractates of early Jewish Law. And believe it or not, many religious people complete this level of study. Nowadays, you can call a phone line, and every hour on the hour, it will be a repeated lesson of the page of the day. There are religious men in New York City who group together on the morning train to learn, or use their train line to do the phone thing. Others have study partners or groups and some just learn on their own. Its a deep commitment, and our heroine of the memoir does all these things. She takes a daily class, she reads on her own, she meets with others, and still she runs, Walks all over Jerusalem, she shops, she works, she visits with others, she moves, she dates, she travels, and is a mom of three kids, including a set of twins. And she never misses a day. Why? Because the pearls she learns from learning Talmud are what get her through the most difficult times? It helps her look deeply inside. To think about relationships, and business and sexuality and compassion, and a whole lot of other things. I was actually surprised reading its contents how much Talmud I already knew over the course off years in bits and pieces. A whole lot of it was familiar. Its beautifully written actually, how much the tractates inspire her to think about herself and get through some dark and difficult life events and truths. Its beautiful written and shows you how one can truly live these tractates and how much they deeply apply to all of our levels of experience if we let it in in the way out author does. In fact, like many, she lives it, and when the 7.5 cycle is complete? She begins again, just like our culture does in October with the Torah. Of course I was taken with the beauty of the writing and the story, but a few other things caught my attention. One was the diligence and perseverance to take on a practice of any kind every day. Now I am not talking about showering, brushing teeth, taking vitamins, walking the dog, doing the dishes, preparing meals. I'm not even talking about checking into Goodreads or Facebook, or checking one's email, something I do every day. I'm talking about an extra concentrated practice. Like prayer, meditation, yoga, or learning a language, or exercise, or writing. There are people who simply just do these things. Every day, never miss. Its a feeding of the soul, but also a commitment - and one not taken lightly. It made me think about this, how it must be to live in such a mindful dedicated practice. I try to do Duolingo every night for French. But it happens in spurts. I exercise in spurts, I diet in spurts. I sing often. But daily sure fire dedication of learning and prayer? That is life defining. So it was just fascinating to see a woman in a bad marriage, divorcing, being single, dating, getting married, having three kids, and still while all these life changes are happening, still devoted to this practice. That was incredible to see. Lana is like us. She is a reader and lover of books. She hoards them, keeps them. Smells and feels their spines, and sees them as old friends and inspiration. She inserts and has self-instilled quotes from the great classics of all time. She is a lover of words and her job is in Hebrew English Translation and Publishing. To her, the Talmud Tractates are one set of books. But make no mistake, those books we each and all love and keep to heart? She too is an absolute lover of books. We all understand each other. For her Books are Prayer. Isn't that the same for all of us? And so, this book is a journey and a tribute and a prayer all wrapped into one, as she takes us into the living heart of a set of books that means so much to her. It was well worth the ride.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Andy Jacobs

    I read this for one of my book club get-togethers, and was surprised by how full of stereotypes and cliches it was. Kurshan's memoir is full of a supercilious and arrogant attitude towards anybody and anything that challenges her preconceptions of what Judaism and people (Jews and non Jews), should be like when dealing with her. If we are to believe her account of her professional struggles, she decided to she could only work in Israel because the international book festivals were full of well- I read this for one of my book club get-togethers, and was surprised by how full of stereotypes and cliches it was. Kurshan's memoir is full of a supercilious and arrogant attitude towards anybody and anything that challenges her preconceptions of what Judaism and people (Jews and non Jews), should be like when dealing with her. If we are to believe her account of her professional struggles, she decided to she could only work in Israel because the international book festivals were full of well-dressed, smoking Germans, who forced her to wear high heels and a dress to attend "their" festivals. I hope that's pure BS or an immature attempt on her part to get readers' attention. If the narrative were reversed, say, a non-Jewish woman were to write that her career went wrong because Jews in Jerusalem (who by the way smoke a lot more than Americans) forced her to dress in a certain way when attending book fests, everybody would cry "anti-Semite!" and report the author to the ADL or something. But since it's Kurshan writing this, she can disparage non-Jewish professionals all she wants, because after all, she's a Jew, she's been victimized!. I also didn't appreciate that she kept blaming her ex boyfriends and ex husband for her mental health issues, which by the way she later mentions started before college, and for her social isolation, never mind that it was her decision to leave her life in the US and move to a neighborhood in Jerusalem where she didn't know anybody.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Laura Boudreau

    Wonderful memoir intertwining a woman's years studying Talmud with her professional, spiritual, and personal growth during that time. Ms. Kurshan writes openly, honestly and warmly, celebrating the intellectual and the emotional, the religious and the profane, and everything in between. She creates an approachable take on the Talmud, allowing great learning on the part of her readers, while at the same time reminding us that we are all human, imperfect...and children of God. Wonderful memoir intertwining a woman's years studying Talmud with her professional, spiritual, and personal growth during that time. Ms. Kurshan writes openly, honestly and warmly, celebrating the intellectual and the emotional, the religious and the profane, and everything in between. She creates an approachable take on the Talmud, allowing great learning on the part of her readers, while at the same time reminding us that we are all human, imperfect...and children of God.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Leora Wenger

    She makes me want to study Talmud (I did not enjoy the subject when I was “fortunate” enough to have it forced upon me in high school). She would be fascinating to have as a chavruta (study partner). I found the topic of privacy and how she views it quite telling - she doesn’t say much in real life, but in this book she tells quite a bit, including how she deals with privacy issues. I loved how she managed clever, literary retorts both to an anesthesiologist in the hospital and to a rude guy on She makes me want to study Talmud (I did not enjoy the subject when I was “fortunate” enough to have it forced upon me in high school). She would be fascinating to have as a chavruta (study partner). I found the topic of privacy and how she views it quite telling - she doesn’t say much in real life, but in this book she tells quite a bit, including how she deals with privacy issues. I loved how she managed clever, literary retorts both to an anesthesiologist in the hospital and to a rude guy on a plane. I look forward to reading more of her writing.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Beth Janus

    I loved the beginning of this book. I thought it was masterful how Kurshan saw Talmud in her everyday life. Towards the middle of the book her connections to Talmud seemed more forced. It became more memoir and less connection to Talmud, which was less interesting.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Miriam

    Uhh... I don't quite know how to describe If All the Seas Were Ink. The back page purports that this book is a memoir about Kurshan moving to Jerusalem as a newlywed, her sudden divorce, and how she put her life back together and remarried while engaging in Daf Yomi, a Jewish practice of learning a page of Talmud (the Big Book of Jewish Law Discussions, Ad Nauseam) a day. The Talmud is a BIG book, so Daf Yomi takes about seven and a half years from start to finish--and a page a day is a truly bre Uhh... I don't quite know how to describe If All the Seas Were Ink. The back page purports that this book is a memoir about Kurshan moving to Jerusalem as a newlywed, her sudden divorce, and how she put her life back together and remarried while engaging in Daf Yomi, a Jewish practice of learning a page of Talmud (the Big Book of Jewish Law Discussions, Ad Nauseam) a day. The Talmud is a BIG book, so Daf Yomi takes about seven and a half years from start to finish--and a page a day is a truly breakneck pace. But that's not what this book is about, not really. Rather, If All the Seas Were Ink is a book-long list of Kurshan's many, many accomplishments. Not to diminish Kurshan's achievements: Daf Yomi is a massive undertaking and completing it is pretty major and requires a lot of dedication. But Kurshan can't stop. She tells us how she memorizes poems while exercising, a practice she started in high school. She tells us of the Big Intellectual books she reads, of the aliyot she learns weekly and to great acclaim, of her triumphant win over the anesthesiologist who wanted to give her an epidural and therefore stop her from "feeling the labor in all its intensity". There's little to no introspection, so the book reads as a litany of Kurshan's superior exercise, reading, praying, studying, and eventually parenting practices (she opts to give up on sleeping by nursing her twin daughters individually instead of together because she needs a hand free to read). If All the Seas Were Ink isn't insightful, it's just brag-y. The sad part is, Kurshan can actually write quite well. Her descriptions of Jerusalem sent me down my own memory lane, reminiscing about my own time spent there. Kurshan does an excellent job of evoking the specific feel and smells of Israel. This could have been a good book. Also, Kurshan copies and pastes several essays she wrote for other publications. Which is fine, I guess? I think it's kind of lazy.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Sevitt

    Full disclosure: I've met the author and sometimes I sit next to her husband in shul (Hello, Daniel!). I loved this, both as a memoir about learning daf yomi and as a book about someone who loves books. It reminded me of Anne Fadiman's essay collection Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader as the author chooses a life surrounded by and informed by literature and reading. I had one glorious moment when she referenced a Wendy Cope poem and I reached out without moving from where I was sitting t Full disclosure: I've met the author and sometimes I sit next to her husband in shul (Hello, Daniel!). I loved this, both as a memoir about learning daf yomi and as a book about someone who loves books. It reminded me of Anne Fadiman's essay collection Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader as the author chooses a life surrounded by and informed by literature and reading. I had one glorious moment when she referenced a Wendy Cope poem and I reached out without moving from where I was sitting to pick up a copy of Two Cures for Love: Selected Poems, 1979-2006 that my mum bought us, to read the poem in full. That alone would have been enough for me, but the core of the book is not just reading, it's learning. The commitment to knowing more, doing better, relentlessly striving for better understanding of self, of context, of place is astonishing and inspiring. Frank, funny and fabulous. Like I said, I loved this.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Chava

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This is one of those books where I was torn between wanting to finish it to find out what happens, and not wanting to finish it because it is such an enjoyable read. Why? It combined so many of the things in my life: Jewish practice and learning, love of books and poetry, being a wife and a mother (and finding time for Jewish learning and poetry!), and life in Israel. As with any endeavor, it was interesting to read about what Kurshan was learning in the Talmud, and what was going on in her perso This is one of those books where I was torn between wanting to finish it to find out what happens, and not wanting to finish it because it is such an enjoyable read. Why? It combined so many of the things in my life: Jewish practice and learning, love of books and poetry, being a wife and a mother (and finding time for Jewish learning and poetry!), and life in Israel. As with any endeavor, it was interesting to read about what Kurshan was learning in the Talmud, and what was going on in her personal and professional life, and how she related them to each other, like when she was learning about Sukkot and attended a book fair with booths. And, as she states many times, I so related to suffering from heartbreak and thinking I would never find anyone who suited me, and finally being blessed to find a beautiful diamond, whom I could appreciate after dealing with a lot of rhinestones and carbon!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Kidwell

    If All the Seas Were Ink A Memoir by Ilana Kurshan St. Martin's Press Biographies & Memoirs Pub Date 05 Sep 2017 I am reviewing a copy of If All the Seas Were Ink through St. Martin's Press and Netgalley: When she is twenty seven, after a painful divorce, Ilana Kurshan joins the world's largest book club, learning daf yomi, (the daily page) of the Talmud, a book of rabionic teachings, spanning a period of six hundred years. Kurshan, a runner, a romantic she adapts to its pace. Kurshan studied the Talm If All the Seas Were Ink A Memoir by Ilana Kurshan St. Martin's Press Biographies & Memoirs Pub Date 05 Sep 2017 I am reviewing a copy of If All the Seas Were Ink through St. Martin's Press and Netgalley: When she is twenty seven, after a painful divorce, Ilana Kurshan joins the world's largest book club, learning daf yomi, (the daily page) of the Talmud, a book of rabionic teachings, spanning a period of six hundred years. Kurshan, a runner, a romantic she adapts to its pace. Kurshan studied the Talmud wherever she went. The memoir is a tale of heartache, humor love, loss and marriage and motherhood. In this book Kurshan takes us on a journey through the Talmud, shedding the light into the stories. If All the Seas Were Ink is a celebration of learning through literature. I give If All the Seas Were Ink five out of five stars. Happy Reading!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lorri

    I enjoyed reading it, immensely. I love the author's insights that unfold when she compares her real life to the tractate she is currently reading. In some instances, the insights surprised her. I liked being taken on her daily journeys both in her Daf Yomi readings, and towards self-realization. I enjoyed reading it, immensely. I love the author's insights that unfold when she compares her real life to the tractate she is currently reading. In some instances, the insights surprised her. I liked being taken on her daily journeys both in her Daf Yomi readings, and towards self-realization.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Connie

    "God's eternal glory could not be described even if the heavens were parchment and the forest quills; if all the seas were ink, as well as every gathered water; even if the earths inhabitants were scribes and recorders of initials." --Rabbi Meir bar Yizhak I really looked forward to reading this, and it is even more of a treasure than I anticipated it would be. While I have heard of the Talmud, I didn’t know anything about it before I picked up this book. For a long time, I have been curious about "God's eternal glory could not be described even if the heavens were parchment and the forest quills; if all the seas were ink, as well as every gathered water; even if the earths inhabitants were scribes and recorders of initials." --Rabbi Meir bar Yizhak I really looked forward to reading this, and it is even more of a treasure than I anticipated it would be. While I have heard of the Talmud, I didn’t know anything about it before I picked up this book. For a long time, I have been curious about the teachings Jewish men spend so many years studying and for many years, women have been discouraged from reading. The author has an almost lyrical way of describing her life. Interspersed with all that she has accomplished and experienced, are poems and fascinating bits and pieces from the Talmud. Ilana weaves all these details together so carefully that the book flows beautifully from one subject to the next. While I read this on a Kindle, I would have preferred a softcover or hardcover edition. I highlighted my way through the book, so I could go back and revisit some of the stories and poems that truly resonated with me, that I found extremely interesting, or in some cases, laugh-out-loud funny. I recommend this to those who love memoirs, would enjoy reading about an American Jewish female who moved to Jerusalem, and would like an introduction to the Talmud.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    3.5 stars- I'm a big fan of this genre (and one of my favorites is The Know it All by AJ Jacobs where he undertakes a similarly impressive task to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica) and there was a lot in this book to enjoy- the glimpses of life in Israel, the obscure passages of talmud and how they can be made relevant to one's life, the empowering way the author tackles this project undaunted by the fact that it is an endeavor usually only embarked upon by men, etc. A few things that did 3.5 stars- I'm a big fan of this genre (and one of my favorites is The Know it All by AJ Jacobs where he undertakes a similarly impressive task to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica) and there was a lot in this book to enjoy- the glimpses of life in Israel, the obscure passages of talmud and how they can be made relevant to one's life, the empowering way the author tackles this project undaunted by the fact that it is an endeavor usually only embarked upon by men, etc. A few things that didn't work for me were the constant references to literature (too disjointed for my taste) and the very sparse way she discusses her personal life (as much as I admire those looking to tell their stories without causing shame to those involved in it I felt this story was a little too hard for me to connect to). I do hope to see more women writing stories like this and grappling a bit more with the issues I found most interesting- women's torah learning, commitment to practice in religious services, adaptation to life in Israel, and so on.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    I finished this book and, just like Torah, when I read the last page I was ready to start again on a journey for deeper meaning. Although a lot of the Talmud discussion soared right over my head, I enjoyed sharing Kushan's experiences and insights as she revealed how her life changed parallel with her daf yomi studies. I will absolutely read this book again, and hope that one day, I may have the courage to begin daf yomi. I hope this is not the last time we hear from Kurshan! Keep on writing sis I finished this book and, just like Torah, when I read the last page I was ready to start again on a journey for deeper meaning. Although a lot of the Talmud discussion soared right over my head, I enjoyed sharing Kushan's experiences and insights as she revealed how her life changed parallel with her daf yomi studies. I will absolutely read this book again, and hope that one day, I may have the courage to begin daf yomi. I hope this is not the last time we hear from Kurshan! Keep on writing sister!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Naama

    This book was an absolute delight. I devoured it in two sittings (one Shabbat), pushing aside all the other items on my to-read list, because this was just so perfect for some much needed quality time on my sofa. It was simple yet clever; upbeat yet honest; methodical yet vivid. I love the way Kurshan personalized an intellectual pursuit, weaving Talmud into the very fabric of her life. There's so much to learn from that approach. This book was an absolute delight. I devoured it in two sittings (one Shabbat), pushing aside all the other items on my to-read list, because this was just so perfect for some much needed quality time on my sofa. It was simple yet clever; upbeat yet honest; methodical yet vivid. I love the way Kurshan personalized an intellectual pursuit, weaving Talmud into the very fabric of her life. There's so much to learn from that approach.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey (Akiva) Savett

    This memoir will stay with me for a long time. It's just so beautiful and smart and inspiring and honest. A little background is necessary. Daf Yomi (a page a day) is a practice that's been around for about a century but become very popular in the last ten. In doing "daf yomi," a participant reads one "page" (it's really a folio page which is equal to about 3-4 pages a day usually) of Talmud a day until she finishes the entire thing in seven years. Reading the entire Talmud is a monumental accomp This memoir will stay with me for a long time. It's just so beautiful and smart and inspiring and honest. A little background is necessary. Daf Yomi (a page a day) is a practice that's been around for about a century but become very popular in the last ten. In doing "daf yomi," a participant reads one "page" (it's really a folio page which is equal to about 3-4 pages a day usually) of Talmud a day until she finishes the entire thing in seven years. Reading the entire Talmud is a monumental accomplishment. It's massive. It's often compared to a sea, as it's deep and wide and can be both refreshing and overwhelming. So, Kurshan takes the brilliant step of telling her life story during the seven years she was doing daf yomi. How wonderful. In less intelligent and empathetic hands, this could have been robotic or cold. Or it would have felt tremendously forced. There are so many pages of Talmud which one would be hard pressed to connect to one's life. But Kurshan does it. Each chapter of her memoir is named after one of the Tractates of the Babylonian Talmud. I was initially temped, upon finisging the book, to think, boy, Kurshan was pretty lucky. A lot happened to her during the seven years she studied the daf. But that's not what happened. In the book's last few pages, Kurshan explains that she started doing daf yomi int the first place because she felt like her life was in confusion; she was looking for something constant, some center. The Talmud became that center. You have to read it every day of your life for seven years whether you want to or not. What happened, as I would imagine happens whenever we read literature or history or poetry is that her study and her life became entwined in a way that makes book nerds like me (and Kurshan) very happy. So in the best possible way, Kurshan's life informed her understanding of what she read every day in Talmud, and conversely, her reading that day made her approach her life, make decisions, and interpret her reality through a lens she wouldn't have otherwise had. I'm not saying this to brag; reading is like breathing for me. I'm a lifelong learner in a fundamental way. IDEALLY, everyone would be no matter what one's philosophical, ideological, political or spiritual bent. But the rhythms of Jewish observance provide ample opportunity to make this ideal a reality. There are countless passages in the Talmud and elsewhere extolling the supreme merits of learning; in a famous passage, when the Rabbis are debating which is more important, deeds or study, the "winning" argument winds up being study---because study LEADS to deed. I bring this up merely to suggest one of the reasons I LOVED this book: I felt like I was encountering a kindred mind and spirit. Kurshan takes her spirituality, her poetry, her family, her mortality, her country, her food, her exercise very seriously; indeed, she inspires me because ALL OF THOSE INFORM ONE ANOTHER. I strive towards accomplishing this in my own life. What a book!

  19. 4 out of 5

    BOOKLOVER EB

    In her memoir, "If All the Seas Were Ink," Ilana Kurshan recounts her journey from loneliness and despair to joy and fulfillment. When she was in her twenties, she fell in love, married, and moved to Israel. Unfortunately, the union ended in divorce and at twenty-seven, she felt adrift. Although she has a first-class education and was able to support herself—she is a capable editor, translator, and literary agent--she experienced bouts of depression and self-doubt. At the urging of a friend, she In her memoir, "If All the Seas Were Ink," Ilana Kurshan recounts her journey from loneliness and despair to joy and fulfillment. When she was in her twenties, she fell in love, married, and moved to Israel. Unfortunately, the union ended in divorce and at twenty-seven, she felt adrift. Although she has a first-class education and was able to support herself—she is a capable editor, translator, and literary agent--she experienced bouts of depression and self-doubt. At the urging of a friend, she decided to join the Daf Yomi, a worldwide endeavor in which students learn a page of the Babylonian Talmud each day. It takes seven and a half years to complete the thirty-seven tractates. All the while, she kept a journal and took notes, which served as this book's nucleus. As Kurshan states in the introduction, "My daily Talmud study was an anchor, if not a life raft." The author is an ardent bibliophile who lyrically expresses her love of language, appreciates the commentaries of the Jewish sages (even when she disagrees with them), and longs for a meaningful and spiritual existence. She is not Orthodox; Ilana was brought up in an egalitarian synagogue and has led services on the Sabbath and festivals. She keeps a kosher home and observes the Sabbath, but rejects other traditions that do not jibe with her beliefs. Kurshan discusses her exploration of the Talmudic texts, and notes parallels between her life and passages in the Daf Yomi. In addition, she weighs in on the debates among various scholars concerning such topics as the Holy Days, matrimony, the rituals that took place in the First and Second Temples, property disputes, the Jewish calendar, and prayer. "No detail is extraneous and little is transparent," Kurshan declares. In spite of her prodigious capacity for acquiring knowledge, Kurshan is modest and self-effacing. Her frank and eloquent writing reveals a quick wit, sense of humor, goal-oriented personality, compassion, and—she would probably admit--a streak of stubbornness. Now living in Jerusalem with her second husband and their four children (including twin girls), Ms. Kurshan is committed to the lifelong pursuit of Torah. As a coda to this engrossing memoir, Ilana Kurshan might have used Frost's famous lines to describe her odyssey: "I took the [road] less traveled by/ And that had made all the difference."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Rhonda Lomazow

    Ilana Kurshan healing from divorce living alone in Jerusalem joins a very special book club something most of us have never heard of daf yomi which translates to a page a day in the Talmud a sacred book in Judaic life.Ilana tells of her day to day life we follow her as she starts to recover &finds happiness &joy in life with daf yomi as a guide.An honest real look into her life her daily existence in.a foreign country on her path to joy.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    I️ had a hard time not fangirling over this book. Kurshan's relationship to learning, to texts, to literature both Jewish and British utterly captured how I️ feel about books and learning. Reading this book was a kind of religious experience in itself and her ability to truly live the Torah she learned and find it in her every day was incredible. But, mostly, I️ appreciated how she gave voice to so many things that were kicking around my mind. I️ had a hard time not fangirling over this book. Kurshan's relationship to learning, to texts, to literature both Jewish and British utterly captured how I️ feel about books and learning. Reading this book was a kind of religious experience in itself and her ability to truly live the Torah she learned and find it in her every day was incredible. But, mostly, I️ appreciated how she gave voice to so many things that were kicking around my mind.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Silverman

    This deeply personal memoir weaves stories from the author's life - from divorce to career choices, from a new marriage to the birth of three babies - together with teachings from the Talmud. Tackling a body of work so few choose to read, the author makes daf yomi- the daily 7.5 year study - come alive with her anecdotes and ties to classic Western literature. Kurshan is a wise and insightful teacher. This deeply personal memoir weaves stories from the author's life - from divorce to career choices, from a new marriage to the birth of three babies - together with teachings from the Talmud. Tackling a body of work so few choose to read, the author makes daf yomi- the daily 7.5 year study - come alive with her anecdotes and ties to classic Western literature. Kurshan is a wise and insightful teacher.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    A beautifully written memoir over the seven year period during which the author studied a daily page of Talmud. It chronicles her reaction to a divorce, being single, dating, re-marrying and having a family. It also displays her erudition and love of all things literary. Much of Kurshan's writing is about her reading and the role it plays in her life. A beautifully written memoir over the seven year period during which the author studied a daily page of Talmud. It chronicles her reaction to a divorce, being single, dating, re-marrying and having a family. It also displays her erudition and love of all things literary. Much of Kurshan's writing is about her reading and the role it plays in her life.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rita Bookreader

    Gorgeous memoir interweaving talmudical passages made relevant by the authors life in Jerusalem. Quite brilliant and I enjoyed it immensely.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Erika Dreifus

    Superb.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Talia

    One of the best memoirs I've read in a long time! Such a beautiful, intimate commentary on the Talmud. Made me want to take up daf yomi again. One of the best memoirs I've read in a long time! Such a beautiful, intimate commentary on the Talmud. Made me want to take up daf yomi again.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Enchanted Prose

    An intimate, enlightening memoir on the meaning of life stirred by seven-and-a-half years studying and embracing the Talmud (Jerusalem, present-day): Ilana Kurshan has written a remarkable, soul-searching memoir. Scholarly yet wonderfully accessible, spiritual yet infused with the “simple pleasures” of everyday life. For someone who is an extremely private person, it’s remarkably self-exposing. A bold, beautiful leap, though Kurshan says it’s “less an act of courage than a leap of faith.” Her fai An intimate, enlightening memoir on the meaning of life stirred by seven-and-a-half years studying and embracing the Talmud (Jerusalem, present-day): Ilana Kurshan has written a remarkable, soul-searching memoir. Scholarly yet wonderfully accessible, spiritual yet infused with the “simple pleasures” of everyday life. For someone who is an extremely private person, it’s remarkably self-exposing. A bold, beautiful leap, though Kurshan says it’s “less an act of courage than a leap of faith.” Her faith, Judaism, is profound. As is her eloquent memoir. If All the Seas Were Ink is rooted in the wisdom of an ancient, sacred text set down and revisited by rabbis at least fifteen centuries ago. Considered one of the most questioning bodies of literature in the world, the Talmud, also referred to as the Torah, is “a text for those who are living the questions rather than for those who found the answers.” Kurshan purposefully and cogently probes these questions seeking deeper understanding of the beauty and hardships of life. Fervent, “obsessed,” about the power of literature and poetry as a driving life force, she rises above her self-doubts to practice what she wholeheartedly believes: that it’s her divine obligation to impart what she’s learned, in striving to be the best person she can be. If you’re wondering how the teachings of very-old rabbis, studiers of the Torah – the basis for all Jewish life – have any relevance to your life today, whether you’re Jewish or not, I encourage you to read If All the Seas Were Ink. I can’t imagine there isn’t something going on in your life that’s not questioned, touched upon, here. “The Talmud surprised me at nearly every turn,” the author says, who surprises us by making writings you might otherwise find “dry” so relatable and relevant, thus compelling. “The text will illuminate your soul, and your soul in turn will illuminate the text.” Studying the Talmud – the Babylonian Talmud, not the Jerusalem Talmud, for it’s the most examined and determinative – takes an incredible commitment of time, discipline, and reflection. You don’t have to be as learned as Kurshan, a literary agent, translator and editor of Hebrew and English works who literally walks around with a book in her hand to the point of breaking bones; or raised in a rabbinical home situated on the property of a synagogue; or as dedicated to your faith (“an anchor, if not a life raft”). But you do have to be strongly motivated and inquiring for the long-haul as Torah study is a seven-and-a-half year journey called daf yomi, which means daily page in Hebrew. Those pages total 2,711 double-sided, organized in thirty-seven volumes called tractates, covering five hundred years of Jewish legal, religious, philosophical, ethical judgments, beliefs, and traditions. Daily study suited the author’s intellectual and industrious disposition exceedingly well. “I cannot help but engage the text because the text engages me.” Still, it took her a year to commit even when her life was aching for direction and comfort. That she found “the most meaningful way to study Torah is by searching for the interconnections and resonances between Torah and the rest of one’s reading, learning, and living” fits all she reveals to us about herself and where she was during a painful period in her life. “Learning Torah, like falling in love, is supposed to set us on fire.” It sure did for Kurshan. We are the beneficiaries of that elation, fueled by her needs, zeal, and view that “only religion can inspire us to connect with other people in meaningful ways so the universe does not seem so vast and lonely.” The year before Kurshan undertook Torah study she was 27, depressed and lost, alone and abandoned in a foreign land after moving to Israel from New York for a marriage that lasted only a year. She speaks candidly and movingly about her feelings of loneliness, sadness, failure, and shame, harkening back to an earlier time when she suffered from anorexia. The characteristics of young women afflicted with this disease match up with her frank admissions of “compulsiveness” and “self-denial,” making her story even more uplifting because when she completed the first cycle of her studies she was joyfully remarried and the mother of a toddler and twin baby girls. Today, the author is the mother of four, counting her blessings. Ilana Kurshan is a resourceful, multi-tasker who aims to make every minute count. (She laminates poems to pull out and memorize when she swims in the pool her literary office overlooks!)  But she didn’t come up with this creative approach to studying the Torah, though it would be plausible if she did. Invented in 1923 by Rabbi Meir Shapiro “as a way of unifying the Jewish world,” the process means that on any given day in the multi-year program of study Jews (and non-Jews) from around the world are open to the exact same page. Imagine having an interest in common to unite us with strangers? A concept the author expresses as a “worldwide web of conversational threads.” One tiny slice of how she brings the spiritual world right into our contemporary one. Kurshan wraps herself up in the teachings of the Torah to guide the choices she makes and how she lives. Dedicated to running too, she chants prayers amidst the old, hilly streets of Jerusalem. Her literary passion is ingrained in her spirit and soul, more than anyone I know. So besides lighting up rabbinic literature, If All the Seas Were Ink is suffused with an eclectic assortment of references to classical and modern writers and romantic poets – Byron, Coleridge, Tennyson, Emily Dickenson, Edna Dt. Vincent Millay, Wallace Stevens, Shakespeare, Nancy Milford, Margaret Drabble, D. H. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, and more.  It’s a treat to see how she blends sacred and secular words and thoughts. Ilana Kurshan’s staunch feminism is another treat. She grew up in a conservative synagogue – men and women sat and prayed together – versus her ultra-orthodox husband’s tradition of separating the genders. She explains that it’s only been in recent decades that women are tackling the Talmud, also male-dominated in attitudes and customs, owing in part to daily podcasts and online free resources translated in English. (This translator translates all Hebrew for us; she wants us to understand.) “Learning daf yomi is like zooming through a safari on a motorbike; there is so much to take in, but you are moving at an impossibly rapid clip” so the author kept a journal and wrote poems that would jog her memory. “These journal entries unfolded as a record not just of my learning but also of my life.” That life, now 37, is full yet still questing. The memoirist asks “how much can we reasonably be expected to change ourselves?” in response to the Talmud’s questioning what we can and cannot change. Kurshan provides us with an answer to this one: quite a bit. As long as we’re willing to take risks, push ourselves with grit and determination, and take stock of, be grateful for, what we have. I, for one, feel grateful for her insightful memoir and think you will too. Lorraine (EnchantedProse.com)

  28. 5 out of 5

    Abigail

    I have not read this book but have heard it praised by people who have. If you have ever wondered what the "Talmud" is or wondered about the personal lives of Jews engaged with Jewish practice this could be a good book to sample. The Talmud was one of the books vilified and burned by the Church in Europe during the middle ages - talk about a witch hunt, or a way to demonize Judaism....the source of much antisemitism even in our time.... I have not read this book but have heard it praised by people who have. If you have ever wondered what the "Talmud" is or wondered about the personal lives of Jews engaged with Jewish practice this could be a good book to sample. The Talmud was one of the books vilified and burned by the Church in Europe during the middle ages - talk about a witch hunt, or a way to demonize Judaism....the source of much antisemitism even in our time....

  29. 4 out of 5

    Liane Wakabayashi

    "When it comes to lived life, I am a deeply private person. But when it comes to written life -- to life refracted through artistry--I unclasp the whalebone stays and turn away with lowered eyes as my loosened bodice rustles to the floor." Whew! And I thought Talmudic study was dry and unsexy? This brilliant young happily married mother of four melds two passions—a love of poetry and for studying Talmud, into an eminently readable tale that covers the seven and a half year cycle in which she kep "When it comes to lived life, I am a deeply private person. But when it comes to written life -- to life refracted through artistry--I unclasp the whalebone stays and turn away with lowered eyes as my loosened bodice rustles to the floor." Whew! And I thought Talmudic study was dry and unsexy? This brilliant young happily married mother of four melds two passions—a love of poetry and for studying Talmud, into an eminently readable tale that covers the seven and a half year cycle in which she kept to an ambitious daily schedule of learning Talmud before and after a full day of work at the literary agency where she read books, tons of books. I had no idea before reading “If All the Seas Were Ink,” that Talmud—the Oral Torah, written down by rabbinical sages who lived through the devastating destruction of the Second Temple 2,000 years ago, could be so relevant to daily life today. Ilana has a gift for nailing universal themes of what it means to lead a happy life in the midst of an unhappy situation—a first marriage that never made it to a first anniversary. What could have been a really sad tale definitely isn’t because the author reflects on her life through the spiritually uplifting, and sometimes downright humorous insights she finds in her daily Daf Yomi Talmudic learning. “ To me it seems that the most meaningful way to study Torah is by searching for the interconnections and resonances between Torah and the rest of one's reading, learning and living,” is one of the many beautifully self-observed lines. “The Hasidic Sage Rabbi Levi Yitzhak," the author writes, "would go to bed each night and examine his thoughts and deeds for that day. If he found fault with them, he would say to himself, "Levi Yitzhak will not do this again. Then he would chide himself...I can relate. I tell myself that by writing and reflecting on my life, I will become a better person." Torah is a fundamental part of identity, and a personal tool for self-awakening for Ilana Kurshan, and by extension for her readers as well. You can't help but be swept away by the soul-searching that goes on in this deeply felt memoir. What Kurshan has done is brought a wonderful feminine and feminist sensibility to her Talumudic learning which she shares in lyrical languages and gutsy intelligence, dispelling any notion along the way that Talmudic learning is dry or irrelevant.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    In this fascinating and engaging memoir Ilana Kurshan chronicles her move to Jerusalem from a successful career in New York City to accompany her new husband. However, the subsequent breakdown of the marriage within a short time of arriving in Jerusalem left her feeling bereft and bewildered and wondering how to re-build her life. A friend suggested she adopt the practice of Daf Yomi, reading and studying a page of the Talmud each day, a task that takes 7 and a half years to complete. This pract In this fascinating and engaging memoir Ilana Kurshan chronicles her move to Jerusalem from a successful career in New York City to accompany her new husband. However, the subsequent breakdown of the marriage within a short time of arriving in Jerusalem left her feeling bereft and bewildered and wondering how to re-build her life. A friend suggested she adopt the practice of Daf Yomi, reading and studying a page of the Talmud each day, a task that takes 7 and a half years to complete. This practice dates back to 1923 when Rabbi Yehuda Meir Shapiro of Poland inaugurated the Daf Yomi learning programme at the first parliamentary meeting of the Orthodox group Agudath Israel, in Vienna. For many Jews all over the world Daf Yomi study has become an integral part of their lives, as it does for Ilana Kurshan in Jerusalem. Her life unfolds against the backdrop of her studies which she continues through her new marriage and the birth of her children, and her reflections on what she reads and studies make for some really interesting reading, even, perhaps especially, for non-Jews. I felt that the book gave me new insight into Jewish ways of thinking and how that thinking impacts their daily life. A thought-provoking and insightful memoir and a glimpse into a different world.

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