Over the yamim noraim I’ve been reading Ilana Kurshan’s memoir of life and daf yomi — If All the Seas Were Ink.
Kurshan begins daf yomi in the wake of the breakup of her first marriage. The daf yomi cycle is her companion throughout meeting and marrying her new husband, carrying and raising three children (including one set of twins), and her life in Jerusalem.
Kurshan is herself a scholar — in addition to her daily Talmud study she regularly leads her egalitarian minyan and translates a range of Jewish scholarship and literature.
Unsurprisingly for someone of such knowledge, she beautifully connects key learnings from her Talmud study to both the major events of her life and the day-to-day rhythms of life.
This book provides a model of deep personal reflection that makes it the perfect companion to the Days of Awe. I particularly connected with Kurshan’s reflection on her prayer practice and her active role in her Jewish community — both things I wish to work on this year.
For example, in one section she highlights the importance of egalitarian prayer for both boys and girls:
As a feminist, I considered it important that both my sons and my daughters be exposed to egalitarian prayer; I was as concerned about my daughters being excluded as I was about my sons taking part in that exclusion.
If All the Seas Were Ink follows a woman living a richly Jewish life, filled with beauty and complexity. It also provides a model for feminist leadership in the Jewish community, and for that I was especially grateful to read it at this time of year.
Gmar chatima tova.