Judy's Reviews > If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir

If All the Seas Were Ink by Ilana Kurshan
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it was amazing

An outstanding memoir of a young woman who rebuilds her life post-divorce in part by committing to the daily rigors of the Daf Yomi program, where people all over the world are literally on the same page of Talmud study, sticking to a 7.5 year cycle to complete the entire encyclopedic work.

Talmud study has traditionally been the main purview of Jewish men. While women are not prohibited from it, the logic required to understand the rabbinic commentary (often unfurled in unwieldy ways) has been considered more suited to the male mind. Kurshan's story has the added feminist appeal of an intensely intellectual woman wading into these depths, usually in classes where she was the only woman.

It's impossible not to admire Kurshan's devotion to both Jewish life and to rigorous study of Talmud, which requires an agile mind and the commitment to studying arcane topics, whose relevance is not automatically clear.

Dividing her chapters according to the Mesechtas, or tractates, she was studying at various times, Kurshan invites the reader to share insights on the spirit and laws of Shabbat and other holidays, as well as her role as a woman staking out an egalitarian stance in the Orthodox world. As Kurshan gets a new start in a new marriage, it is remarkable how she never breaks her Daf Yomi stride, even with a steady stream of children making their welcome appearances.


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Reading Progress

April, 2018 – Started Reading
May, 2018 – Finished Reading
July 4, 2018 – Shelved

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