St. Martin’s Press

Marcia Smith-Hutton, MSW, LICSW, BCD, is a Psychotherapist Member of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and a Member of BPSI’s Library Committee. Her below remarks originally appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of the Hann Sachs Library Newsletter, which can be read here.

Ilana Kurshan, St. Martin’s Press, 2017, 320pp.

Ilana Kurshan is very comfortable with associations and metaphors; hence the title of this book. The Babylonian Talmud has frequently been referred to by the rabbis of old as the “sea.”

The author plunges into the Talmudic sea at times, embracing the waves or flowing with the various currents of her life. While she was immersed in a sea of contradictory arguments and intellectual ambiguities, she was learning to live with the important questions of life. She stated that among the many things she learned, living in the present is essential. The questions are more important than any answers the rabbis might give. Ms. Kurshan hopes that some of the answers to her questions will wash up to the shore of her mind.

Daf Yomi in Aramaic and Hebrew refers to the study of one page of Talmud a day. It takes seven years to finish reading the Talmud. Ms. Kurshan wrote that after she had completed the seven years and read the entire Talmud, she started over from the beginning. She remembered that on second reading, the dimensions of the text had changed for her, as she felt she brought new depths of understanding, which she attributed to her growth in scholarship and perhaps most of all, her growth as a human being, a wife, and a mother of four children.

While I read this rich memoir, I was struck with the analogy between Daf Yomi and psychoanalysis, that is, how Ms. Kurshan made use of her readings of Talmudic text. Her assiduous concentration, her daily disciplined study habit, led her to experience personal growth and a level of maturity that might be compared to the completion of a successful psychoanalysis.

Marcia Smith-Hutton, MSW, LICSW, BCD, is a Psychotherapist member of the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and a member of BPSI’s Library Committee. Having grown up in Paris, she is bicultural and bilingual. She moved from Paris to Boston in 1970, earned several degrees from BU, the last one being in Social Work. Soon thereafter, she became drawn to psychoanalysis intensely pursuing studies in this field. She graduated from BPSI’s Advanced Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy Training (ATP) program in 2003. Marcia has a private psychotherapy practice in Brookline, MA, and currently an advanced candidate at MIP.

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