What a healthy relationship to time, viewing it not as a mark of age, but as an opportunity to grow in wisdom. If I learned a page a day, then instead of resigning myself to being one day older, I could aspire to be one day wiser.
if all the seas were ink ~ A Memoir
by Ilana Kursham
~review by Cindy
[The rabbis of the Talmud] they’re not just talking about legal stuff. They’re arguing with their wives, insulting their students, one-upping their colleagues – and when talking about law, they’re not telling you what to do. They’re figuring it all out, invoking not just the Bible but also folk tales, fables, and cultural myths…It is a text for those who are living the questions rather than those who have found the answers.
If All The Seas Were Ink is a moving memoir of Ilana Kurshan. Beginning, at the end of a broken marriage, Ilana is 27 and alone in Jerusalem. At the suggestion of a friend, Ilana takes on the discipline of daf yomi “daily page” – which is studying a page of Talmud a day. With this regimen of taking one page a day, the study of the Talmud is completed in seven and a half years.
…my journal, a record of what happens beneath the surface, in the deep and rocky emotional terrain of my heart, a landscape that sometimes feels so alien and barren that it may as well be on the moon – orbiting the earth, and keeping pace with sublunary reality, but a different thing entirely. Like the moon, my journal entries are merely a product of my own reflections, waxing and waning depending on how much light I shed on to the page.
Immersing herself into this daily study, together with journalling, Ilana weaves together a tapestry that is deeply vulnerable, thoughtful and salted with humor. She brings the reader into her conversation with the Talmud and the inner workings of her heart. Her commitment is deeply inspiring and the way she applies all she is learning of G-d, His Word, and the Talmud to her personal life, intensely challenges me to do the same.
Said Rabbah: Even though our ancestors have left us a scroll of Torah, it is our duty to write one for ourselves.
– Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 21B
Ilana shares about her habit of writing a limerick or sonnet corresponding to each page she learned, “I was trying to make my learning so much a part of me that I, like Rabbi Eliezer, might someday be able to refer to ‘my two arms, like two wrapped Torah scrolls’ (Sanhedrin 68a).”*
Full of beauty and deeply inspiring, Ilana said that, for herself, her writing became a sort of shofar, [a wake-up call] causing her to live intentionally and reflectively. I would say her words have had the same effect on my heart.
A story of loss, healing, love, living…of just learning to walk spiritually and emotionally – at times simply one foot in front of the other. Deeply engrossing and a read I truly couldn’t put down!
Ilana lives in Jerusalem with her husband and four children.
This intimate and passionate read has very deserveably received recognition as the 2018 winner of Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature; the 2018 Sophie Brody Medal; the 2018 Natan Book Award Finalist, and it was also a Finalist for the 2017 National Jewish Book Award in Women’s Studies.
You can purchase this wonderful read here: If All the Seas Were Ink: A Memoir
* Beth Kissileff, Bringing ‘Daf Yomi’ to Life. And Vice Versa.