The call of the shofar is distinctive and recognized by Jewish people around the world. Today, blowing the shofar in worship is a significant part of certain Jewish holidays, yet historically it had more uses.
In ancient days, the sound of the shofar was heard much more often than it is today. In fact, they would often blow the shofar to signal a variety of events such as the start of a fast, a celebration of victory, a declaration of war, the beginning of a holiday, or just as a musical instrument.
The tradition, or ‘commandment’, requires Jews to hear the shofar sounds, rather than requiring us to blow the horn ourselves. Some people believe it is an alarm to wake us up and turn our lives around, while others see it as piercing the shell that may have hardened around our hearts in the past year. It has also been thought by some to remind us to look inside the repent for the past year’s sins.
What is a shofar?
It’s a bugle-like instrument made from an animal horn, usually a ram, and used in certain Jewish religious ceremonies.
Interestingly, the shofar is one of the world’s oldest unchanged instruments that is used still in use today.
When is the shofar blown in modern times?
Today, blowing the shofar in worship is done:
- Elul: The shofar is blown once daily during the month of Elul, the month preceding the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur)
- Rosh Hashanah: The shofar is blown up to 100 times in varying ways during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and the start of the 10 days of Awe.
- Yom Kippur: The shofar blows once at the end of the holiday, signifying the end of the Days of Awe.
Blowing the Shofar in Worship the 4 sounds of the shofar
Blowing the shofar is a skill that requires mastery of three shofar blowing techniques. These produce either a long, a medium, or a staccato type blast. However, it is more often said that there are four shofar sounds, although when you listen, you will hear that the last is just a longer version of the first.
These 4 sounds of the shofar have names:
- Tekiah: One long blast, a summons or wake up.
- Shevarim: Three medium blasts, sometimes compared to the sound of weeping.
- Teruah: Nine blasts as eight quick staccato notes followed by a longer blast that seems to have an alarming urgency about them.
- Tekiah Gedolah: One very long blast that raises in force and volume.
Hear the 4 sounds of the shofar
Be sure your sound is on, and then listen to the 4 sounds of the shofar.
Owning a shofar
Growing up, we had a beautiful shofar from Israel on display on our mantel. For years it just sat there until the year our rabbi asked my dad to blow the shofar on Yom Kippur. This was a huge honor that required a lot of practice. But he rose to the occasion.
Half Polished Half Natural Kudu Horn Shofar
This beautiful shofar was made in Israel according to the Yemenite custom and certified Kosher for religious use. It’s made from the horn of a kudu, an African species of antelope, so each one will be unique.
Click here to see size options and check for price.
Don’t miss our complete shofar buying guide.
Meet the ‘Best Shofar Blower’ of the Modern World
Is it true? Is Robert Weinger really the ”best shofar blower’ of the modern world? Who’s to say, really? Obviously, the reporter thinks so, and Weinger didn’t object to being in the story, but if you read the YouTube comments, you might have a different take on it. Either way, he creates a beautiful sound.
Final thoughts on the shofar
Like so many things in religion, there are seemingly endless discussions as to the significance and importance of the shofar. In fact, My Jewish Learning has listed 10 things the shofar symbolizes.
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Have you heard the sound of the shofar?
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