Dressed in a white robe and singing in a tenor voice without accompaniment, Cantor Fred Scheff led a congregation gathered at the Jewish Community Center Synagogue on Friday for the Rosh Hashanah service.
Scheff, a doctoral student in music at Kansas University who has acted as a cantor for Jewish services in Lawrence for more than a decade, sang the Hebrew words used in the service without a break for about four hours.
"It's like doing a full-length opera," he said after the service.
But at one point near the end of the service, Scheff's words were answered by a young boy playing a horn, or Shofar.
In the Jewish faith, the blowing of the Shofar symbolizes the beginning of the Jewish New Year, and the beginning of the 10 "Days of Awe" that lead to a second holy day, Yom Kipper, on Saturday.
Rosh Hashanah is also known as Judgment Day, the Day of Rememberence and the Day of the Blowing of the Horn.
ON FRIDAY, on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, about 40 people gathered at the synagogue.
After the service, warm greetings were exchanged. Many spoke the traditional Rosh Hashanah words "May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year."
During a similar service Wednesday night on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, hundreds more were in attendance. Then, the congregation divided into those who wanted to attend a reform service and others who preferred the traditional service.
As many as 500 Jews from Lawrence are expected to attend a service Friday night on the eve of Yom Kipper and Saturday on Yom Kipper itself.
To some, the symbolism behind last week's Rosh Hashanah may seen almost a contradiction. Rosh Hashanah is a festive holiday, and it is traditional that friends and relatives get together for food and drink after services.
BUT THE HOLY day is also the beginning of 10 days when Jews prepare for Yom Kipper by looking inward through self-examination.
The 10 days of preparation are for "putting ourselves in order with our fellow man," said Sig Lindenbaum, a professor of chemistry and pharmacy at Kansas University who attended Friday's service.
Lindenbaum explained that there is no contradiction at all with the festival of Rosh Hashanah and the "Days of Reflection" that follow.
He said the introspection carried out during these 10 days is not meant to be morose or sullen, but a careful examination by Jews of themselves as people so they can become better persons during the new year.
"There's a joyful end," Lindenbaum said. "God is there to help us."
ANOTHER person attending Friday's service, David Katzman, KU professor of history and American Studies, explained that Rosh Hashanah and the 10 "Days of Awe" that follow are both a "time of new beginnings and at the same time, a time of reflection.
"It's an opportunity to make New Year's resolutions, put our relations with people in order and ask forgiveness."
He said Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kipper are two of the three most important Jewish holy days, the third being the celebration of Passover.
And Scheff said Yom Kipper eve is one of the most solemn days of the year for those of the Jewish faith.
He said during the 10 days following Rosh Hashanah, conflicts and problems between men should be resolved.
Then on the eve of Yom Kippur, he said, "we ask that all vows, deals and bargains between human beings and God that were not fulfilled shall be cleaned off."
KATZMAN SAID the eve of Yom Kippur is "very solemn, the holy of holies, a time to begin the period of atonement."
Then Yom Kipper, during which people fast for about 25 hours and pray for forgiveness and renewal, "is between you and God," the time of atonement, Scheff said.