The A B C’s of buying and playing a Shofar
The Shofar is a very primitive, majestic, and simple musical instrument. Mentioned in the Bible numerous times, it was used by the early Hebrews to give signals during a battle, or to call the Hebrews into battle. Later it was also used in conjunction with the announcement of a Holy Day, Biblical Festival, and at times as part of celebration and ritual. A Shofar is usually made from the horn of a ram (a male sheep) but sometimes it comes from a domestic goat or mountain goat, an antelope, or certain species of gazelle.
Are there different kinds of Shofars?
There are TWO basic kinds of Shofars: Rams horns and Yemenite Shofars. The Ram’s horns are the more traditional style, generally in the shape of “J” and are smaller than the Yemenite Shofars. The Yemenite Shofars, made of gazelle antler, are more slender than the Ram’s horns, and considerably longer consisting of several curves.
How do I measure or grade a Shofar?
All Shofars consist of curves and bends. It is the length and compactness of the curves and bends that determines the tones and notes. Therefore, for centuries the way Shofars have been measured is by following along the outside curve(s) of the horn, from mouth-end to horn-end. Since HolyLand Marketplace buys only Kosher shofars made by Believers in Yeshua, direct from Israel, we purchase them using that standard, and sell them in the same way.
A shofar generally comes in 3 grades of finish: totally natural, half-polished, and fully polished. This is purely about preference, and in no way affects the sound or quality of the horn. Natural means that the Shofar has not been smoothed or polished at all, except around the mouthpiece area. Half-polished means that much of the horn has been polished, but the remainder left natural (most people prefer this grade). Full-polished means all parts of the Shofar that CAN be polished, have been. Some parts of a Shofar cannot be polished as they are naturally deep-grained, and to “polish” that part of the horn would ruin it.
Some Shofars are available decorated and/or engraved or painted with various symbols. This is over and above the 3 grades of finish.
Do Shofars have (or get!) a bad odor?
OURS DON’T!! Cheap ones sometimes are not properly cleaned and prepared during the manufacturing process….AVOID THEM! ANY Shofar will have a slight distinctive smell, but it is light and not at all unpleasant or obnoxious.
You should not allow a Shofar to get wet. Too much wetness COULD cause an odor to grow. It should be stored in a dry area. Heat and cold will not harm it.
When do Jews blow the Shofar?
- Throughout Ellul, the month before Jewish New Year ( Rosh Hashanah), the Shofar is to be blown every weekday at the end of the morning prayer except for the day before Rosh Hashanah. The Shofar tells people that Rosh Hashanah is getting closer each day and reminds them to get on with putting things right. Most importantly, the Shofar is blown on Rosh Hashanah (the 1 st day of the Hebrew month of Tishri).
- At the end of Neilah (the last of the 5 Yom Kippur services) the Shofar is blown to announce that Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) has ended.
Is it hard to blow a shofar?
NO! Anyone can do it. But, to make it sound good takes a little practice. You blow into it with pursed lips, the way one would play a trumpet or a bugle. Generally, you need to moisten your lips and hold the Shofar such that ALL the air goes into the Shofar. Depending on the size (length) and kind (Ram’s horn or Yemenite), you’ll get from 1 to 3 notes (generally speaking). Ram’s horns tend to make more tooting or bugle-like notes, while the Yemenite horns are more mellow and the notes extend a little farther. Ram’s horns generally are one note only; the shorter horns have higher notes than the longer horns. Yemenite horns, depending on length and YOUR ability, can play at least 2, usually 3, and some folks have been known to get 4 notes from them.
What are the typical Shofar calls?
The Tekiah: the “blast”. It is one long blast with a solid, clear tone.
The Shevarim: a “broken” mournful and sighing sound of 3 short blasts.
The Teruah: the “alarm”, consisting of a series of 9 or more short staccato blasts done in rapid succession.
The Tekiah Gedolah : called “the Great Tekiah”. This is a long, single, unbroken blast that lasts until the worshiper’s wind gives out.
NOTE: It is acceptable (and greatly rewarding) to come up with your own unique Shofar call to honor the Lord.
Does the Shofar have a place in Messianic or gentile Christian worship?
YES! Just as singing and the playing of modern musical instruments, drums, and tambourines, can enhance and ignite our worship experience, so can the Heavenly notes from a shofar bring us back to the days when Yeshua (Jesus) walked the earth! And, take us ahead to that time when He returns! Without question, Jesus responded to the call of the Shofar at the beginning of every Biblical Festival and Holy Day. And, when He comes again, it will be at the sound of the Shofar coming from Heaven. The command to blow the shofar is given over and over again in the Torah, and the Israelites have used it, with great meaning and reverence and purpose, for centuries.
10 REASONS Jews Blow the Shofar based on Rav Saadiah Gaon
- Rosh Hashanah is the day that commemorates the creation of the world and it is described as the "coronation" of God. As it is customary to sound a trumpet at a king's coronation, so we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. By blowing the shofar we recognize the "purpose" of the creation.
- The shofar blast marks the beginning of a period of amnesty that is known as The Ten Days of Repentance (during the High Holy Days). Repentance is based on the fact that since humanity has been given free-will, and our actions are not pre-determined, we must take responsibility for our actions. The ability to repent teaches us that our future is not bound by our past and that by changing our behavior we have the ability to change our past.
- When the Jews accepted the Torah at Mount Sinai, the sound of the shofar is described as "continuously increased and very great" (Exodus 19:19). The shofar serves to remind us of the revelation at Mt. Sinai and therefore to renew our commitment to the Lord and to accept that Torah morality is absolute and God given - not relative, nor does it depend on human understanding.
- The prophets called out to the Jewish People and aroused them to improve their ways. The shofar reminds us of the admonitions of the prophets and their calls to repentance. We should be aware of the fact that Yahweh communicated with us, via the prophets, and displayed through them His desire to perfect us rather than to punish us.
- The Shofar reminds us to pray for the rebuilding of the Temple where trumpets and Shofars were sounded. Just as God manifests His presence in the world in specific places like the Temple in Jerusalem, He also manifests His presence at special times, such as the Ten Days of Repentance.
- The ram's horn (Shofar) reminds us of the binding of Isaac when Abraham demonstrated his absolute faith in El Shaddai by being prepared to sacrifice his son. God demonstrated His absolute love for Abraham by having him sacrifice a ram in his place.
- The sound of the Shofar is to inspire fear in the hearts of those who hear it. It allows one to dwell upon fear of punishment, to progress from there to the fear of doing evil against God, and then to fear of God. Finally one arrives at the feeling of awe of the Lord.
- The Shofar reminds us of the Day of Judgment in the not-too-distant future, and it inspires us to pray for the perfection of world, all of mankind and the Messianic era.
- The sound inspires us to yearn for the ingathering of the Israelites that will be heralded by the sound of a Shofar. There will be absolute unity amongst the Israelites and our connection to Land of Israel will again be absolute.
- The Shofar recalls the resurrection of the dead that will be accompanied by the sound of a Shofar. As the Lord is the source of all life and the Creator of all existence so He has complete control over death.
Additional reasons from other sources:
- The shofar ushers in the Divine court session and shows our trust in the Lord’s determinations. By showing our eagerness to be judged by Yahweh we thus confuse the heavenly prosecutor, the Satan.
- Shofar blasts were sounded preceding a war - to rally the troops for action and to call the people together for prayer and repentance. The shofar is therefore like an air raid siren that alerts us to danger, and a bugle that summons us to action.