Passover begins Monday at sundown. In Jewish homes around the world, a special Seder meal will be prepared; the youngest child will ask four ritual questions, and a special portion of wine will be poured for the Prophet Elijah.

One child will later be sent to open the door to see whether that ancient prophet has come to take his place at the family’s Seder table to enjoy that special, fifth cup reserved for him.

The families of Clear Lake’s Temple Beth Tikvah, 12411 Park Shadows Trail, shared their memories of Passovers past after a recent Sabbath service, and Elijah did come up several times in the telling.

“When we lived in Colorado, we lived on a street with many kids,” said Audrey Dunegan, who now lives in League City. “So when the time came during the Seder that year, we sent my two-year old son, Riley, to the door to call out, ‘Elijah, Elijah.’ His young friend Elijah from next door comes over and says, “Yeah?” So we invited him in to join us for the Passover Seder, because we were inviting Elijah. He loved that.”

Riley Dunegan, now 6, is in Hebrew school here at Beth Tikvah. He has learned to ask the four Passover questions in both English and Hebrew with just a bit of help.

When Rabbi Deborah Schloss’ daughter Priya was little, she had something of an exciting encounter with the Seder’s Elijah as well.

“We would have her open the door for Elijah and then have her look at the wine,” Schloss said. “As she went for the door, my husband and I would take turns chugging the wine. So when she came back her eyes would get so wide that they almost popped out of her head. We asked her if she had seen Elijah drink the wine. As she got older, she got more suspicious, but it was a phenomenal experience as a parent when she was little, and we did that for years.”

Passover is traditionally celebrated in the home, but the difficulty of obtaining the requisite kosher ingredients for ritual dishes and the pressures of modern life have caused this congregation, and others, to offer community Seders, which eliminate the long hours, or even days, of shopping, cooking and related preparations. It’s also a way to serve Jews who are no longer members of a local synagogue.

As part of their community outreach last year, Beth Tikvah’s congregation of 78 families had a community Seder at a country club, which drew 130 families. The event will recur next week with hopes for an even larger gathering.

The Passover tradition recalls the exodus of the Jews from Egyptian slavery about 3,500 years ago. Elements of the Seder meal serve as illustrations of the biblical story. Passover itself runs from Monday to April 22, with Seders on Monday and Tuesday.

Rick Cousins can be reached at

Community Seder

Temple Beth Tikvah will have its congregational Seder at 6 p.m. April 18 at Bay Oak Country Club, 14545 Bay Oaks Blvd., 832-224-5009.

This celebration will be conducted by Rabbi Deborah Schloss, with singing by Myrna Reingold, Josh Levine and Jon Zelon. All are welcome, and reservations are required. Tickets are $48 for members, $54 for nonmembers and $18 per child over six.

The four questions of Passover

1. Why is this night different from all other nights?

2. Why is it that on all other nights during the year we eat either bread or matza, but on this night, we eat matza?

3. Why is it that on all other nights, we eat all kinds of vegetables, but on this night, we eat bitter herbs?

4. Why is it that on all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night, we eat in a reclining position?

Next week

 Look for our annual Easter sermon previews.

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