SENIOR SNAPSHOT: Kaili Finn, Talmida

In honor of their graduation, the Boiling Point profiles four members of the class of 2014. Click on links at the bottom of the story for three more.

INSPIRED: Kaili Finn looks forward to a year of personal growth in Israel.

BP Photo by Goldie Fields

INSPIRED: Kaili Finn looks forward to a year of personal growth in Israel.

Hanging around the Shalhevet hallways, phone in hand, clad in Uggs and an American Apparel skirt, is Kaili Finn, whose love for Judaic Studies has set her trajectory to study Torah in Jerusalem next year, delaying her college plans at the University of Maryland.

Kaili will be studying at Midreshet Lindenbaum — a religious seminary also known as Brovender’s — an all-girls program with a full day of courses with like Philosophy of Halacha and The Five Megillot. It will be quite a change from her four years at Shalhevet, which included roles as SAC Chair, Color War captain and member of the soccer team.

“Before I go to college, I want to experience a year of growth and knowledge,” Kaili said in an interview. “In Israel, I expect to accumulate more understanding both in my Jewish and personal life.”

As a middle schooler at Yavneh Hebrew Academy, Kaili enjoyed Judaic studies, but at Shalhevet, she said, she was inspired by faculty to create a stronger connection.  Now, her favorite subject is Gemara, perhaps the most difficult class in Judaics.

She said she does not relate so much to prayer, but experiences a great sensation when she opens a Gemara. On Senior Awards Night, Kaili was awarded the Kotler Award for Outstanding Achievement in Talmud.

“The Gemara is so complex and sometimes really hard to follow,” Kaili said. “When I am able to piece it together and grasp the concepts, it is the most accomplished feeling.”

One of the most inspiring Gemaras Kaili learned in high school was Shabbat 88a. The Gemara notes that Moshe goes up and down Har Sinai each day at the beginning of Sivan, bringing a korban (sacrifice) on the fifth day. Then, on the sixth day, he receives the Torah and stays on the mountain for 40 days more.

When Kaili first learned this with Judaic Studies teacher Rabbi David Stein, she asked how it could relate to her. They discussed a deeper meaning: each up and down of Moshe’s journey represents the ups and downs of  Jewish history — Crusades, pograms, good times and bad — and then, as Moshe got the Torah after bringing the korban, in more recent times God gave the modern state of Israel — a paradigm shift showing the stability of the Jewish nation.

This is the kind of thing that made Kaili want to study all day for a year, and even to embrace the change of going from a co-ed school with a half-time Judaic curriculum to an all-girls seminary with hardcore learning.

“I’m still nervous about the intensity of my studies next year,” Kaili said. “But I’m so excited to learn from so many amazing, inspiring people.”

Next year, Kaili Finn will be roaming around the city of Jerusalem donning the dress code of her seminary—similar to Shalhevet’s—and holding a Gemara in her hand, ready to learn.

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