If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir

by Ilana Kurshan

Book, 2017



Call number




New York, NY St. Martin's Press, 2017


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.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member MickyFine
Ilana Kurshan's memoir recounts the seven and a half years she spent doing daf yomi, the cycle of reading the 37 volumes of the Talmud, and how that experience interwove with the other events that happened in her life during that time. Kurshan begins studying in the wake of her divorce to her
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husband of only a year when she is feeling at a loss, uncertain about her life in Israel (which she moved to for her ex-husband) and her career. By the end of the study cycle, Kurshan is in a different job, married, and has three young children. Observing her journey and the insights to her faith she gains through reading the Talmud was fascinating for this reader and I enjoyed immersing myself in the life of someone whose experiences are so different from my own.
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LibraryThing member arosoff
After an unexpected divorce, Conservative rabbi's daughter Ilana decides to embark on Daf Yomi--the cycle of daily Talmud study. Over the next 7 1/2 years, she completes the Talmud, embarks on a new relationship, marries, and has children. The memoir is organized by the tractates of the Talmud, and
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like that work, the organization in each chapter is a little loose as she dips between discussion of the tractate, her life, and other religious and literary digressions. But she's a good writer, and the detours are interesting.

(I also realized she's from my hometown, which was funny.)
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Original publication date



1250121264 / 9781250121264

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