G-d Stories: Imri

G-d Stories: These are self-eulogies, autobiographies, but fictionalized, in the moments before death. Theologically now,  I propose that death has nevuah, poetry and a crystallized but imagined dialogue with the Eibishter. The nazi murder was their malacha mavet. Again theologically and especially in soul talk there is no localized geography. The soul wants to return to G-d and stay in this world and can do so because there is no corporeality. Therefore there is  language every which way. I did think though that his brevity reflected a five-year-old’s essence. I know almost nothing about him except one picture of a quite happy, smiling and beautiful child taken months before the Nazis came and whisked the family away. (I keep that picture on my podium on the bima and dedicate every Shabbat to him).  My grandfather was not home that day and lived out the war hiding in a Wallenberg safe house, and my mother did never talk about her little brother in full fleshed dimension. I am reclaiming his life.


G-d Story: Imri

On the Way to Life

I was brought here from so far away to die, how do I get all of life’s meaning now into these last- second moments? I know that the ground won’t have me like it takes all little boys. Me? I‘m going into the air like that chimney over there over all of us breathing. I am just five. I keep my eyes on mama. I know that I am to bring G-d into Auschwitz, not that others can live but that death makers cannot hide. I am supposed to look at them but I cannot, I want to see mama, only her. And so now I have to be brave (soldier brave) and look away to the ones that hate G-d in their own image of Him. They hate the sun as they have hidden it too. But G-d can see in their artificial night, by this chimney’s light; I will light it, I know this. G-d has Eyes!

When I die, I will enter Edit and Alice. My last breath will go up to the chimney and into them- half to G-d half to them. They are my big sisters who will walk out of this lonely place and so me that way with them. They will take mother and David, fast and shnel, b’chiapazon away from this sky that can have no blue. Alice will live and bring us to Jerusalem where there is the clearest bluest sky and the strongest red sun. I can be there already the moment before the gas. The chilazon blue on the big talit that I will never have.

But I want to speak about my part in G-d. I will blow my soul into Him; the image of my mother’s eye on me and my eyes on the soldier who has shut the door on us. And I close my eyes tight tight tight tight tight, so no light will come in them and no light will go out; only my breath of death, (waiting for G-d to sort out the knowledge of the good and the evil in this subterranean garden). Is this what Shabbos was meant for? To prepare me to knock me from my feet. I am not an animal. I stood the whole way in the cattle car. I am not an animal in the hay. I will tell this to father when he comes to my place in heaven. Because my portion is that of the man that I will never be. And because there is no option, I will live standing up next to Mama and David. She doesn’t have to hold me, she just has to look upon me so that I know that I have been seen a thousand times. And everyone is singing Shma! What a chorus, what a synagogue. We represent Sarvar synagogue where the great Adolph had his seat of honour. I would stand next to him too, Adolph Schwartz, and he would sing the Shma, too, his voice through my closing eyes: I know G-d has Ears.

G-d Sees G-d Hears and G-d touches. My mother is covering my eyes, I am covering my mouth, because I have breathing to do into G-d’s Nose. Every other sacrifice was a sweet aroma to Him. But mine will be the garbled Shma, I will breathe into His nose the image of a little boy-5 who would not give up his breath to anyone again because I carry in my eyes and in my mouth the breach of man who has come to tell me that I will not become. You have heard the life of a hand; I am carrying five fingers to that faraway land of heaven’s surround- one for each year of my life. One so that little boys will not die this way again, one so that smiles were my life long promises, one so buildings will never take away the sky, not even at nighttime. One for Alice who will live to make five-year-old children again and one for G-d who is One and never tired of Being in our people’s faith. I was going to learn all of TaNaCh and Talmud; I was going to be the Chacham’s Chacham. And now I will be G-d’s light, and a sweet aroma of a soul that loved to smile in a beautiful picture that would invite the orphans to our table. Shabbat is as Auschwitz as the night. A Jew has faithful faith. I choose this victory.

I am Imri Schwartz Lok and my tzitzit are in a knot. I have left them outside with the man who has eyes of the chilazon.


Rabbi Cahana’s mother, Alice, comes from a small town, Sarvar, Hungary. The family was of the most prominent leading Jews in that Oberland region on the border to Austria. When the Nazis rounded up the community, Alice’s father had already escaped to a Wallenberg safe house in Budapest. The remaining family was transported to Auschwitz among the Jewish townsfolk where Alice’s mother and two younger brothers were forced to the gas chambers immediately upon arrival. This is the fictionalized dialogue that Rabbi Cahana imagines that the youngest child Imi, as he was called, narrates to G-d from the depth of his soul. Alice, through the years could not speak about her little Imi, and all that physically remains is a tiny picture of a beautiful smiling boy on the family summer vacation, mere months before that horrific end. Rabbi Cahana keeps that picture on the bimah and dedicates every Shabbat service to Imri Lok’s memory. Alice survived the war with her older sister, Edit, but they were separated upon liberation and have not found each other since. Grandfather, Adolph Schwartz was a large philanthropist and the patriarch of this most religious family. He had given to Imri the talit katan, the fringes with the hidden blue, the tzitzit, in prayed for protection to comfort Imri at the deportation. The chilazon is the legendary snail from the Dead Sea that holds the secret blue dye that mirrored the heavenly Jerusalem sky in the middle thread of the tallit. Rabbi Cahana calls these G-d Stories, the prayers that G-d collects of lives intent on meaning in conversation in lonely lament for a death and life that was not yet lived. He invites you too, to write for those you know that had no closing chapter.


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