With A Song In My Heart


Ever since I can remember, I have loved music, whether it was my grandfather introducing me to Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov, my father to Big Band, or my discovery of the Beatles and Motown. Periods, when I was not able to listen to music, were truly difficult for me.

My wife tells me I have what is called a robust evocative memory. I live with a myriad of songs (and memories) that seem to be always bubbling just below my conscious thinking. For example, if a conversation ends with the word “tonight,, I soon find myself humming the famous song from Westside Story, “Tonight, Tonight,” or if a friend mentions they that they are feeling “old and tired,” Neil Young’s “Old man take a look at yourself…” starts playing in my head, “good morning” triggers “Morning has Broken” by Cat Stevens. This phenomenon generally goes on throughout the day.

Nonetheless, I was quite puzzled that with Passover Seder night approaching, I found myself singing, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Of all the songs in the world, why was this song dominating my musical consciousness as spring was in the air? I grew up loving everything about Chicago winters, the snow, the hustle and bustle of the December shopping season, and of course, the Christmas music. Yet it was now April; December was long behind us, I am living in Israel during the Coronavirus pandemic, and this Christmas song is on repeat in my head! While I always loved the melody of this song, I found the lyrics to be quite strange.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away

Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more

Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

The composer of this song was longing for happier times. When he wrote this song, he was obviously not in the usual holiday spirit. My wife, a singer of ’30s and ’40s music, suggested this must be a WWII song, and we indeed discovered that it was written in 1943. The war’s outcome was frighteningly uncertain, as my wise 93 -year-old father in law reminds us.  Also, families had never experienced the prolonged absence of their children, and these lyrics reflect their longing for their sons fighting overseas.  The songwriter was hoping things would return to more joyous times by next year.

I had found my answer! My feelings about celebrating Pesach under the Coronavirus shadow mirrored a songwriter’s very same emotions about celebrating Christmas in 1943. This year a lot will be missing! Our Seder was initially planned for 15 people and now it will be just two. We pray our loved ones, “who are dear to us, will be near to us once more,” at next year’s Seder, as this beautiful and mournful tune suggests.

While we traditionally say at the end of the Seder, “Next Year in Jerusalem!” this year, I believe many of us will be hoping that “next year all our troubles will be out of sight…”

Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy and Kosher Pesach,


About the Author
Philip is the founder of Philip Stein & Associates, the largest US accounting firm in Israel, specializing in US taxation of US tax residents living in Israel, and of Israeli individuals and companies doing business in the United States. Offices are in Jerusalem, Ramat Gan and Beit Shemesh. Philip grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and graduated from the University of Illinois, followed by an MBA from the University of Michigan. Philip started his career in the tax department of what today is Ernst & Young. He has lectured at Roosevelt University, Loyal University and Northeastern University, and continued to lecture on international tax issues in Asia, Africa, Europe and North American. He is also a frequent speaker for Nefesh B’Nefesh and has advised the Israeli Treasury, Bituach Leumi and the Knesset on various tax issues affecting US citizens living in Israel. Philip’s love of radio led him to start his podcasts which have attracted tens of thousands of listeners. He continues to be an avid Chicago sports fan as well as a lover of mountain hiking, TRX, and snowshoeing (he likes to keep his feet on the ground!).
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