Origin of Tekiah Gedolah?

Cantor Daniel Pincus points out, "Of particular interest to me is the fact that neither the talmud, RAMBAM or the Shulchan Aruch mandate or discuss tekiah gedolah."

I am sure the practice of holding the note is quite ancient. But where does the written record begin?

Shofar in Modern Music, Literature and Art

Kees van Hage has written a Ph.D. dissertation on A Tool of Rememberance: The Shofar in Modern Music, Literature and Art. Excerpts can be read at http://hdl.handle.net/11245/1.430729. After a review of shofar in traditional religious texts, he provides "Dialogues between Traditional Religious Texts and Modern Music, Literature, and Art: A Classification", then analyzes seventy artistic works. 

I particularly recommend you read his 3-page summary at http://dare.uva.nl/document/2/149911.

He has made a great contribution to the scholarly study of shofar.


Man is a creature of physical matter.

Sefer HaChinuch with respect to the Mitzvah of Shofar:

“At the root of the precept lies the reason that since man is a creature of physical matter, he is not aroused to things except by something stirring, in the way that people at the time of battle will sound horns and even shriek, in order to be well aroused to war.  Then so, too, on the day of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the year, which is the day determined of old for all those who came into the world to be judged on it...  For this reason everyone needs to arouse his nature to entreat mercy for his sins from the Master of mercies; for Hashem is gracious and compassionate, forgives iniquity, wrongdoing and sin, and absolves those who turn back to Him with all their heart.  Now, the sound of the shofar greatly stirs the heart of all who hear it, and all the more certainly the sound of the t’ruah, which means the broken (quavering) peal."


Colloquium Musicology - University of Amsterdam

Dr Kees van Hage on 'A tool of Remembrance: The shofar in Modern Music, Literature and Art'

Colloquium Musicology

This colloquium will be held On 25 September, 15:30 - 17:00, in the University Theatre (Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16), room 3.01

The shofar

The shofar or ram’s horn, like the menorah and the Star of David, is a central symbol of Judaism. In the Hebrew Bible, it is the most mentioned instrument: it announces the revelation of the Ten Commandments, it calls for religious rituals, it is heard in the exhortations of prophets and it gives the signal for battle. In the Bible, however, the shofar is only rarely a musical instrument. In the prayer books for Rosh Ha-Shanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the shofar produces a wordless continuation of prayer, and therefore is considered a ritual instrument instead of a musical instrument.

By the end of the 19th century, writers, composers and artists changed their way of looking at the shofar and thanks to their work, the venerable ram’s horn was given a second youth; it made an artistic turn to music, literature and art, revealing its unexpected artistic abilities, without forgetting its religious past.

A Tool of Remembrance
, the first scholarly monograph on the shofar, explores the use and meanings of the shofar as a traditional religious symbol in the new, secular context of modern music, literature and art, where the instrument is no longer subject to restrictions of place (the synagogue), time (the liturgical year) and authority (halakhah), and where it is directed to general, not exclusively Jewish audiences of listeners, readers or viewers, who are not aroused to action or repentance, but invited to experience the artists’ personal interpretations of Jewish traditions.



Shofar in Hebrew script

Rabbi Miriam Hamrell of Ahavat Torah, Los Angeles, CA was looking at a table covered with shofarot recently. There were tightly curled sheep horns, and sheep horns that had been partially straightened; straight gemsbok horns, and twisting kudu horns. She wrote "shofar" in Hebrew script, and said, "Look, the shape of the letters are the same as the shape of the horns!"


Sounding Shofar During Morning Services During Elul

Sounding Shofar During Morning Services During Elul

Arthur L. Finkle

The Code of Jewish Law (Shulhan Arukh, I28:8) instructs that the shofar shall be sounded in the period between rosh hodesh (new month) Elul until after Yom Kippur. The religious rationale was that Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the second tablets, dwelt there for 40 days, and descended on the tenth of Tishre, when the atonement was completed. The musi­cal rationale is that the forty-day period provided the necessary practice to develop the appropriate embouchure.
The religious rationale come from the Midrash (Pirkei d'R' Eliezer 45; R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (80-118 C.E.), a disciple of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai and teacher of Rabbi Akiva):
[During the Jews' first year in the desert,] they received the [Ten] Commandments on the sixth of the month [of Sivan], [and then] Moshe forty days on the mountain studying, [and then] on the seventeenth of [the month of] Tammuz he came down and broke the Tablets. [Forty days later] on Rosh Chodesh Elul, HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to him "Come up to Me on the mountain" (Devarim 10:1), and an [announcement through blowing] shofar was spread throughout the camp, [saying] that "Moshe has gone up on the mountain!" - so that they would not be [led] astray after strange worship [once] again, and [the honor of] HaKadosh Baruch Hu was uplifted through that shofar [blowing], as it says (Tehillim 47:6) "G-d rises up at [the blowing of] the shofar." Accordingly, the Sages instituted that shofar be blown each and every year on Rosh Chodesh Elul [the authorities' text - unlike ours which says "Tishrei" (from here on are the words of the Tur and the Rosh - possibly their text to the Midrash itself)] and [throughout] the entire month, in order to urge Israel that they do teshuvah [i.e. "return to Hashem" (repent)], as it says (Amos 3:6), "If a shofar shall be blown in a city [can it be that the inhabitants will not be shaken?]," and in order to confuse the Satan [i.e. angel of Heavenly prosecution].
In rabbinic commentaries, the Rosh (Rabbeinu Asher ben Yechiel, Germany and Spain, 1250 - 1327, ruling at the end of tractate Rosh HaShanah) concludes: "[Indeed,] it is the Ashkenazi minhag (custom) to blow [shofar] throughout the month of Elul, morning and evening, after the prayer [services]."

Commenting on this custom, The Tur (Rabbeinu Yaakov ben Asher, Spain, 1280 - 1345) is in Orach Chayim 581. The Rema, Yosef Karo (Spain, Portugal and Turkey - 1488-1575) brings a variation - blowing only after the morning service (Shacharis). The Mishnah Berurah, an update of religious laws in the Code of Jewish Law, dated approximately 1900) confirms the accepted custom. See www.learnhalacha.com/ElulShofar.pdf

The musical rationale is what any instrumentalist would do preparatory to a performance. See Arthur L. Finkle, The  Easy Guide to Shofar Sounding, LA: Torah Aura, 2003


A time for peace.

"Joab blew the shofar, and all the troops came to a halt... 
they did not fight anymore."
2 Samuel 2:28

It is time for Israel to sound the shofar and halt its bombardment of Gaza. Their strategy is only making Hamas stronger by building resentment against Israel.

Israel is a strong nation, and the strong do not need to attack the weak. The Iron Dome is working. Let Hamas fire its missiles until the world sees the the disgrace of Hamas and shames them out of power.

A better strategy for Israel would be to bring march its warriors up and down the border of Gaza for seven days without firing a shot. Then on the seventh day, blow seven shofarot. 
Fortress Hamas will crumble. Hamas cannot survive in an environment of love.

To every thing there is a season:
a time for love
a time for peace


Hearing Reb Zalman

More than anyone else, my book on shofar and this website is due to the influence of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. I had never heard the shofar - the type of hearing that reaches the kishkes and pierced the shell of the neshama - until Reb Zalman brought its voice into my life in 1993.

"Baruch Dayan HaEmet"


Shofar survives holocaust

Photo Credit:
According the Arizona Daily Star, May 13, 2014, Werner Zimmit, "recalls that in early 1945, while in the area of Alsace-Lorraine (then part of Germany, now part of France), he came upon a small synagogue that had been used by the Nazis as a horse stable. Lying in the dirt, mostly covered with mud, was a shofar, a musical instrument, usually made of ram horn, that is used for Jewish religious purposes. He picked it up and saved it for many years, until he felt it needed a proper home and donated it to the Jewish History Museum, 564 S. Stone Ave. [Tucson, AZ] It is on display there now."


Ugly vessels

The Talmud states that wisdom is like wine. It improves if stored in an earthenware cask, but spoils in silver or gold vessels. (Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, Smiling Each Day, 1993, Pg 15)
This comes from Babylonian Talmud Masechet Nedarim 50a and concerns Rabbi Joshua ben Hananiah, a man whose physical beauty did not match his wisdom:
File:Wine horn with a gazelle protome, Iran or present-day Turkey, Achaemenid period, 6th-4th century BC, earthenware and paint - Arthur M. Sackler Gallery - DSC05814.JPG
Earthernware rython.
The Emperor's daughter said to R. Joshua b. Hananiah: 'Such comely wisdom in an ugly vessel!'

He replied. 'Learn front thy father's palace. In what is the wine stored?'

'In earthern jars.' she answered.

'But all [common] people store [wine] in earthern vessels and thou too likewise! Thou shouldst keep it in jars of gold and silver!'

So she went and had the wine replaced in vessels of gold and silver, and it turned sour.

'Thus,' said he to her, 'The Torah is likewise!'

'But are there not handsome people who are learned too?'

'Were they ugly they would be even more learned,' he retorted.
Hebrew for "vessel" is "k'lee", a term that can also describe a shofar. I interpret this teaching to explain why a horn, fashioned from a crude horn of an animal that grazed on earth is used instead of a trumpet of precious metal.


Available at Auction

Continental, 19th century. Each in traditional shape.
Sizes range from 11” to 22”. Estimate $2,000 – 4,000
Germany, c. 1780. Flat. Engraved in Hebrew
15” long. Estimate $2,200 – 2,800
Israel, 1958. Presented to Congregation Beth Jacob as an
acknowledgment for successful bond raising efforts.
12.2” long. Estimate $1,200 – 1,500


18th Century Shofarot

This image is from a history of English synagogues. A caption says, "Shofar, 18th Century" but does not offer provenance. The antelope horn, top, would have been quite exotic at the time. I have not seen another example attributed to such an age.


Shofar at Cemetery Dedication in Russia

 "A unique ritual was performed in the town of Novomoskovsk on the outskirts of Moscow last week, with the consecration of a new Jewish cemetery on a plot of land donated for the purpose by a local philanthropist.

"The ritual involved the circling of the plot of land by the rabbis present, the blowing of Shofars and the recitation of certain passages.

"The ceremony was overseen by Russia’s chief rabbi Berel Lazar, and head of the local division of ZAKA R. Yaakov Roza.

"After the ceremony, the rabbis and Shluchim joined together for a Farbrengen, voicing the hope that the new Beis Hachayim would never have to be put to use."

If you know of a precedent for shofar in a cemetery dedication, please let me know.

http://crownheights.info/chabad-news/439138/new-jewish-cemetery-dedicated-near-russian-capital/ 2014-May-28


100 Shofarot for People's Climate March! -- NYC Sept 20-21

I support the following call, posted by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 5/22/2014

http://ww1.prweb.com/prfiles/2009/12/14/2449744/RabbiStoneBlowingShofar.jpgThis September, just a few days before Rosh Hashanah, there will be a mammoth People’s Climate March in mid-town Manhattan, either on Saturday, September 20, or Sunday, Sept. 21.
The Shalom Center is working to organize a Jewish contingent (and if the March is held on Shabbat, September 20, a morning Shabbat service as well).
Imagine 100 shofar-blowers sounding forth the Ram’s Horn of warning and transformation at the head of a Jewish/ Multireligious contingent on the March!

 This past Tuesday night, I took part in the first planning session for the March. About 230 people showed up –- from religious groups, labor unions, poverty-action groups, environmentalists, students, elders, health-care activists, and many more.

There was a very strong sense of excitement about both the numbers and diversity of people present, and a sense it will be possible to bring 200,000 people or more into the streets around one demand: “Climate Action Now!”  (Participants may have their own signs, etc. There will be no civil disobedience as part of the March; if groups wish to take such action, they should do so the next day.)

Permit negotiations with the NY Police Department continue, and the actual day depends partly on that. Possible line of march (not yet certain) might be from Lincoln Square to Times Square to Union Square. There will be no “rally” with speakers, etc.

Buses, trains, car-pools, etc from beyond the five boroughs of NYC are welcome!

So I would like to raise the possibility that Jewish congregations and organizastions from Boston to Washington DC might support this March, maybe become co-sponsors and join perhaps with others in their town to send a bus.

On Rosh Hashanah, just a few days later (starting Wednesday evening, Sept. 24) there begins not only the new year as it does every year, but a special year –- the biblical seventh year, the Sabbatical Year or Shmita (“release, non-attachment”).

The Shmita/ Sabbatical Year is intended to be a year of healing and freedom for the Earth, annulment of debts, an opening beyond the usual economic and political constrictions of human society —  what might be called eco-social justice. (See Lev. 25 and Deut 15.)

How do we prepare to turn the ancient Shmita of farmers and shepherds toward healing for our wounded Earth today? The March itself is a first step – and it must not stop there.

Through study, through ourselves becoming the Great Shofar of history, we can learn to act together to prevent disaster and instead grow seeds of change into a flourishing world of shared and sustainable sustenance.

From study into action!

 “Awake to protect and heal the Earth!”

“Awake to protect the poor, the hungry, assailed by flood and famine!”

“Awake to heal YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Breath of Life, as it chokes from the overdose of CO2 burned into our world-wide breath, Earth’s atmosphere!”

So action is needed. Yet clear action, effective action, action deeply rooted in our spiritual selves, requires study. So please take part in one of these study opportunities. Learn in the midst of joy!

To sign up an organization as a co-sponsor of the March, click here:

For groups or individuals to sign up for a Jewish and/or multireligious contingent on the March, please click to:

Photo: "Rabbi Warren Stone blowing Shofar at UN COP 15 as an Awakening Call to UN and World Community on Climate Change." http://www.prweb.com/releases/2009/12/prweb3341424.htm  The press release, while not directly related to the above action, speaks to the same issue and is reproduced below:

Bethesda, MD (PRWEB) December 15, 2009

As the climate summit reaches new momentum in Copenhagen, a coalition of United States religious organizations, the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care, (nrccc.net) has presented a collection of religion body resolutions and statements on Climate Change to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and President Barack Obama stating that climate change is a moral and ethical issue, and urges the UN to act now to pass a global treaty to reduce CO2 emissions for the sake of humanity.

Major U.S. religious organizations over the past several years have issued numerous statements about the threats posed by changes caused by humans to the world’s climate. Roman Catholics, Jews, Mainline Protestants and most Evangelicals are united in seeing spiritual implications to the problems represented by human actions.
“In a world where matters of faith so often and so tragically to divide us, there is no issue that aligns us more deeply than our shared dependence upon and sacred responsibility to this tiny planet, enfolded within its fragile atmosphere, spinning in the vastness of time and space,” states Rabbi Warren Stone from UN Summit in Copenhagen.

Speaking on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, from Washington, DC, declared, “Climate change is a profoundly moral and spiritual problem.” Catholic bishops are very concerned and they will be promoting a new Climate Covenant. They will take the message on the seriousness of climate change to every Catholic parish in America.

Cardinal McCarrick’s statement reflects the position of Pope Benedict XVI: “Attention to climate change is a matter of grave importance for the entire human family," said Pope Benedict XVI before a gathering in Saint Peter’s Square.

Rabbi Warren Stone, representing the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care (http://www.nrccc.net) and representing the CCAR, URJ and 22 national Jewish organizations at the Copenhagen UN, declared, “Our religious traditions compel us to act boldly for justice. This is something we all share in common and it is a shared source of strength and inspiration upon which we must draw. There is no one fixed or easy answer. Now is the time to act.”

Rabbi Stone presented these statements to the Office of Secretary Ban Ki-Moon and President Barack Obama’s White House and urged rapid and bold action for the sake of humanity.

The Rev. Michael Livingston, president of the National Council of Churches, observed “We agree on the need to protect God's creation. It has become clear that global warming will have devastating impact on those in poverty around the world.”

The Rev. Owen Owens, past chair of the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice stated: “This is one of the most serious issues society faces. Every major religious organization has a statement on climate change and calls for strong action to hold off this threat to the future welfare of our planet. "

Dr. Thomas English, Creation Care Educator of the Presbyterian Church (USA), from San Diego, California, states: “Global warming will result in mass extinctions of plants and animals by the end of the century. These extinctions will profoundly disrupt the food web for people over the entire Earth. People will attempt to ease their suffering by migration to other countries. Global migration will increase international tensions.”
Three years ago, 86 top U.S. evangelical Christian leaders launched the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which calls upon all Christians to push for legislation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, says that global warning is also a social justice issue. He added, "Climate changes, in terms of famine, in terms of the inability to grow crops, in terms of the flooding of islands, most affects the poor, but the front edge of disaster is most going to affect those who have the least.”

Mrs. Connie Hanson, an evangelical Presbyterian and president of Christians Caring for Creation, in Pasadena, California said: “Climate change is already disrupting the lives of many people and it is threatening many of God's precious creatures, often the most vulnerable of the Lord's children.”
The Rev. Richard Cizik, former vice president for the National Association of Evangelicals, said: “this is not a matter of political persuasion so much as moral leadership.”

Eastern Orthodox Christians are also concerned about climate change. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has convened a series of international symposia to study environmental challenges declared that climate change is “a profoundly moral and spiritual problem.” “We urge every person to realize their responsibility and to do whatever they can to avert the increase of the earth’s temperature.”

The Rev. John Chryssavgis, of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese stated: There is no longer room for negotiating with nature. We must assume courageous initiatives toward the treatment of the earth's resources and assume leadership in supporting the burden of the poor.”

Rabbi Warren Stone, who serves as co-chair for the NRCCC, observed that Copenhagen will serve as a stage for the next step in the world’s response to climate change. “We are called by our religious traditions to serve as a bold voice for justice. Climate change will have a dramatic impact on hundreds of millions of the poorest people on our planet, especially those who live in coastal areas.

“In Judaism there is a profound and powerful mandate for caring for the Earth. In a world where matters of faith so often and so tragically to divide us, there is no issue that aligns us more deeply than our shared dependence upon and sacred responsibility to this tiny planet, enfolded within its fragile atmosphere, spinning in the vastness of time and space," states Rabbi Stone.

“It is our moral responsibility to the world community,” continued Rabbi Stone, “to take decisive action now! A treaty and legislation, though helpful, will not be enough. We need to change our way of life toward sustainability. Religious communities understand the importance of spiritual values as guiding our choices. We need to shift the way we live toward more sustainability. Our common future demands nothing less. Now is the time for a cultural shift in our way of living.” 

For More Information Contact:
Rabbi Warren Stone, NRCCC.net & Temple Emanuel, 301-942-2000
Frederick Kruger, NRCC.net, 707-573-3161



Shofar Sculpture at Ahavas Chesid, Mobile, AL

A 16 ft.-long sculpture of a shofar is displayed outside Ahavas Chesed Synagogue in Mobile, AL. It was made by Mobile artist Casey Downing and commissioned by Abe, Arlene and Mayer Mitchell. The idealized geometry of the sculpture is also seen in the mostly abstract work shown in the artist's online portfolio.

“Other than the seven-branched menorah,” says Rabbi Steve Silberman, of Ahavas Chesed, “the shofar is perhaps the most ancient of all Jewish symbols. It stands out in our history as an identifier.”

Photo credit: www.al.com/

Quote and other information: http://blog.al.com/living-press-register/2010/09/sounds_of_the_shofar_blowing_o.html


18th Century Shofar

In collection of North Carolina Museum of Art
Title: Shofar
Dimensions: L. 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm)
Medium: Horn: carved, pierced, engraved
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Shertz
Object Number: G.75.16.3

Culture: German
Inscriptions: Translation: [side A] Happy is the people who know the joyful shout; [side B] O Lord, they walk in the light of Your presence [Ps 89:15] [Translation: March 2011 by Benjamin D. Gordon, Ph.D. Candidate, Duke University]
Department: Judaic

Pesach and Shofar

Pesach and Shofar

Arthur L. Finkle

The shofar sounds during all the holidays in the Jewish year. During Pesach, the shofar is sounded 9-times as a part of the Temple ceremony performed on Passover.

Jn Mishnah Pesachim 5:5 mentioned the sole of the shofar blasts

They blew the shofar a sustained, a quavering and a sustained not [three times]. Neusner, Mishnah

In Mishnah Pesachim 64, it states

The priests stood in rows, and in their hands were basins (to received blood) of silver and basins of gold; a row which was entirely of silver was of silver, and a row which was entirely of gold was of gold: they were not mixed; and the basins had no [flat] bottoms, lest they put them down and the blood become congealed. the Israelite killed [the lamb], and the priest caught [the blood]; he handed it to his colleague and his colleague [passed it on] to his colleague; and he received the full [basin] and gave back the empty one.( thus it was worked on the ‘endless-chain’ system.)
The priest nearest the altar sprinkled it once over against the base [or the altar].the first division [then] went out and the second entered; the second went out and the third entered. as the manner of the first [group], so was the manner of the second and the third. they recited the hallel
The Talmud in Pesachim 64b gives an example of the great number of people who entered Jerusalem and partook in this mitzvah by retelling that one year King Agrippa wanted to count the number of people. He instructed the high priest to count the number of sacrifices that were brought as the sacrifice (Korbán Pesach). When they reached 1,200,000 the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) stopped the count. This was double the number of people who had left Egypt.

There was usually a lamb for each family. Interestingly the Ethiopian Jews, who were cut off from Rabbinic Judaism, still perform the lamb ceremony. .

The Torah requires that the sacrifice be offered publicly. On the 14 day of Nisan the Kohanim (Priests) would open the doors of the temple and allow the people in with their offerings in three large groups of no less than thirty people but each group had many, many more than that. When the courtyard was filled with people, they would close and bolt the doors. The Kohanim would stand in long lines shoulder to shoulder from the courtyard of the people into the courtyard where only Kohanim could enter all the way to the foot of the altar.

The first man would come with his lamb and slaughter it in front of the first Kohen who would catch the blood in golden holy vessels and pass it to the next  Kohen and so forth until it arrived at the base of the altar where the blood was deposited. The vessels had a round bottom to them so that the Kohanim could not put them down even for a moment in order to prevent the blood from coagulating rending the offering unfit. The vessels would be passed from Cohen to Cohen back and forth. The person would then move to the next station where the carcass was hung from a hook and skinned and the prohibited fats and other parts were removed. They were placed into a vessel, and salted then moved to the altar in the same fashion as the blood but these were burned on the altar.

Behind the Kohanim on a platform stood the Choir of Levites. When the process began, the Shofar was sounded tekia; teruah;  tekia and the Hallel prayer was chanted by the choir. This continued until the entire group that had been let in had finished offering both the Pesach offering and also the other sacrifice for the holiday called the Hagiga offering. (The first meat eaten was the meat of the Hagiga sacrifice and then later the Passover Sacrifice which was eaten with bitter herbs and matzah.)

Generally, there were two other groups that repeated this process.

Origin of Hallel
The Hallel consists of Psalms 113 through 118 and is a central prayer in Judaism. It is recited by observant Jews as praise and thanksgiving on Jewish holidays, including Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot and on other occasions such as Hanukkah and Rosh Chodesh. The following steps will show how to recite the hallel for Passover.

Rabbinic tradition credits King David with having written almost all of the Psalms, including those which now make up Hallel. R. Eleazar ben Yosé, however, ascribed Hallel to Moses and the Israelites; while R. Judah taught that the prophets had decreed that these psalms be recited to mark national events and deliverance from peril. Other sages maintained that Hallel was recited by various leaders of Israel throughout the biblical period----by Joshua, Deborah, and Hezekiah, by Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, by Mordecai and Esther (Pes. l l7a-118a).

They would chant the Hallel for each group at least three times. Accordingly, there were nine shofar blasts. When all of this was finished they would allow the next group in after the first group left. This occurred three times. If the 14th day of Nisan were Shabbat, everything was done the same way except that the people could not take the meat home with them until after Shabbat.



Reptile Shofar?

Rhino iguana.
(Photographer: Frank C. Müller , 07.07.2007, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nashornleguan7_fcm.jpg,
licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.)
I was under the impression that only mammals have horns, defined as a boney protuberance from the skull covered with a keratin sheath. I now know that several types of reptiles also have horns.  The photo shows, for example, a rhino iguana (rhinoceros iguana), Cyclura cornuta, with horns on its snout.  Horned lizards also have true horns, see Horned Lizard Conservation Society.

It is very unlikely that the small horns on these animals could ever be fabricated into a sound-able instrument, but contemplating the possibility of a reptile shofar raises the question of whether a shofar can be made from a non-kosher species. I will not attempt to answer that question, except to point out that Rabbi Natan Slifkin says that the horn of a triceratops dinosaur could be a shofar:
A species that "would indeed potentially be a viable shofar, and would be the sole case of a shofar from a non-kosher animal, is a triceratops. However, the keratin sheath from which the shofar is made would only be found on a living specimen. Thus, short of radical advances in cloning technology, à la Jurassic Park, this would not appear to present a practical situation for the halachic discussion." http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2012/09/olifants-and-triceratops.html 2012-Sep-04


Responsa: Can shofar have two bores?

QUESTION: If a horn has two bores between the blow hole and the horn cavity, is it acceptable for the mitzvah of hearing shofar?

Inline image 1 BACKGROUND: Jewish law contains many requirements about what qualifies a ram's horn from use as a shofar.  For example, a shofar can not be turned inside out, patched together from two horns, or have sidewall perforations.

I fabricated a horn with two bores between the blow hole and the horn cavity. This was not my intention. But when the first bore failed to find the horn cavity, I made a second bore that was more successful. Later, while cleaning the instrument, the first bore penetrated into the cavity. So now it has two blow holes.

I wrote to several shofar scholars to ask if they saw any reason to disqualify the shofar.

DISCUSSION: My correspondents agreed that they had not heard or read anything about this question. Natan Slifkin, author of Exotic Shofars, wrote, "I don't see why it would be a problem."  Maurice Kamins, a master shofar maker, offered, more conservatively, that perhaps it should be used only if a more "proper" shofar is not available.

The question may be pedantic as a double-bore shofar be made into a single-bore horn in at least two ways:
1) It may be possible to plug one of the bores. Would it be necessary to do so with horn material, as is required to patch a perforation in the sidewall of a shofar?
2) Another fix would be to enlarge the two bores until they were joined into a single, large bore.

ACOUSTIC IMPLICATIONS: Kamins modified an existing shofar by drilling a second bore. He writes, "as best I can tell the only thing having two bores in the shofar does is kill the sound. Drilling two bores into the shofar turned a bad sounding shofar into a terrible sounding shofar." My double-barrel shofar also had a mediocre sound, and was very difficult to sound.

MY OPINION: An anatomic analogy illustrates the problem. A breath, either an inhalation or exhalation, has a single flow of air. Yet when the air passes through the nose it flows through two nostrils. Similarly, the flow of air is separated into two lungs. These doubled passages are like a shofar with two bores.*

What is critical is that the shofar and shofar blast have integrity - a single breath of air passing through a single horn to create a single sound to communicate with Adonai Echad - the single God.

I invite other opinions.

* Few individuals can breath through mouth and nose simultaneously, so the analogy does not apply to horns with three or more bores.
ALTERNATIVE OPINION: The double-barrel horn is not a shofar because it is a "tuber". 

("two bore", get it?)


The Deacon Blew a Ram's Horn

This bit of verse suggests that horns were sounded in early New England churches. This does not surprise me as few early churches could have afforded the bells that called later generations of worshipers. 

If you know anything about this tradition, please let me know.

By Oliver Wendall Holmes
For the Centennial Celebration of Harvard College, 1836.

When the Puritans came over.
Our hills and swamps to clear,
The woods were full of catamounts,
And Indians red as deer,
With tomahawks and scalping-knives,
That make folks' heads look queer; --
O the ship from England used to bring
A hundred wigs a year!

The crows came cawing through the air
To pluck the pilgrims' corn,
The bears came snuffing round the door
Whene'er a babe was born,
The rattlesnakes were bigger round
Than the butt of the old ram's horn
The deacon blew at meeting time
On every Sabbath morn.

But soon they knocked the wigwams down,
And pine-tree trunk and limb
Began to sprout among the leaves
In shape of steeples slim;
And out the little wharves were stretched
Along the ocean's rim,
And up the little schoolhouse shot
To keep the boys in trim.

And, when at length the College rose.
The sachem cocked his eye
At every tutor's meagre ribs
Whose coat-tails whistled by;
But, when the Greek and Hebrew words
Came tumbling from their jaws,
The copper-colored children all
Ran screaming to the squaws.

And who was on the Catalogue
When college was begun?
Two nephews of the President,
And the Professor's son,
(They turned a little Indian by,
As brown as any bun;)
Lord! how the seniors knocked about
The freshman class of one!

They had not then the dainty things
That commons now afford,
But succotash and homony
Were smoking on the board;
They did not rattle round in gigs,
Or dash in long-tail blues,
But always on Commencement days
The tutors blacked their shoes.

God bless the ancient Puritans!
Their lot was hard enough;
But honest hearts make iron arms,
And tender maids are tough;
So love and faith have formed and fed
Our true-born Yankee stuff,
And keep the kernel in the shell
The British found so rough!

From:  The American College Songster a Collection of Songs, Glees, and Melodies, Sung By American Students; Containing Also Popular American, English, Irish and German, Songs, Negro Melodies, Etc. London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1876)



Shofar as Factory Whistle

Shofar as Factory Whistle
Arthur L. Finkle

Was the factory whistle an invention of ancient Jewish practices. The Babylonian Talmud at 35b (3) states
The academy of Rabbi Yishmael taught: On Friday afternoon we sound six shofar blasts announcing the arrival of the Sabbath.

Rabbi Yishmael  (90-135 CE,) was a Tanna of the 1st and 2nd centuries (third tannaitic generation). His studied with Rabbi Akiva. After their deaths, the students of these two giants continued their learning in the name of their famous teachers.
The Tanna ("repeaters"; "teachers") were the Rabbinic sages whose views are recorded in the Mishnah, from approximately 10-220 CE., also referred to as the Mishnaic period, lasted about 210 years. The first blast call those who are working in the outer fields to return to their homes to welcome the Sabbath. These outer workers would then meet the workers in the closer fields to enter the town together.

The second blast commands commerce  to cease to welcome the Sabbath. At home, hot water would be heating pots.

The third blast commanded to remove the heating pots (because one cannot utilize fire for cook on the Sabbath) and to insulate food one would need for tomorrow’s meal.

After the third blast, the Ball Tekiah (Shofar Blower) would wait the duration of to roast a small fish over a fire or enough time to attach bread to the walls of the oven.

As a final alarm, the Shofar Sounder (who is attached to the synagogue) ends his blasts with ta Tekiah, Teruah and another Tekiah commencing the Sabbath.

Thus we have six blasts as there are working days in the week. For the seventh you shall rest.

Can One Carry A Shofar On The Sabbath?

Can One Carry A Shofar On The Sabbath?
Arthur L. Finkle
Although Mesechta Rosh Hashanah seems dispositively to forbid one to carry a Shofar on the Sabbath, lest one be tempted to sound it, Shabbat 35 seems to disagree.

In the discussion  of the six blasts to alert those that the Sabbath is beginning, the  question is asked can one carry the Shofar home (on the Sabbath)?
One opinion was that you could leave it on the roof where you sounded the Shofar. Another was that you can take it home, presumably before the Sabbath.
Then a distinction is made that a private Shofar, not a communal
Shofar is carried. The rejoinder is that the communal Shofar should be used to care for the poor.

Shabbat 35b:

When the third blast was begun, what was to be removed was removed, and what was to be stored away was stored away, and the lamp was lit. Then there was an interval for as long as it takes to bake a small fish or to place a loaf in the oven; then a teki'ah, teru'ah and a teki'ah were sounded, and one commenced the Sabbath. R. Jose b. R. Hanina said: I have heard that if one  comes to light after the six blasts he may do so, since the Sages gave the hazzan of the community time to carry his shofar home. Said they to him, If so, your rule depends on [variable] standards. Rather the hazzan of the community had a hidden place on the top of his roof, where he placed his shofar, because neither a shofar nor a trumpet may be handled [on the Sabbath]. But it was taught: A shofar may be handled, but not a trumpet? -Said R. Joseph: There is no difficulty: The one refers to an individual[‘s]; the other to a community[‘s]. Said Abaye to him, And in the case of an individual's, what is it fit for?-It is possible to give a child a drink therewith?

Shofar as Baby Feeder?

Shofar as Baby Feeder

Arthur L. Finkle

In Sabbath 35b, there is discussion of whether one can carry the shofar on the Sabbath. At issue was whether a Shofar is muktseh (forbidden to touch on the Sabbath). Rav Yofef said:

There is no difficulty. Here, in a later Baraisa  [legal ruling that not was not in the Mishneh]), we are dealing with the Shofar of a private individual; such a shofar can be carried on the Sabbath and is not muktzeh. Moktxeh] (Hebrew: מוקצה) is a Hebrew meaning "set aside". For the Sabbath and for Jewish holidays, certain items are mukzteh (it  builds a legal fence so that that there no temptation to use the object). The idea of muktzeh, however, is a rabbinic prohibition rather than the higher Torah prohibition.

Abaye  was a Babylonia rabbi whose nephew of the brother was a teacher at the Academy of prestigious Pumbedita academy. He died in 339. Known as an expert in Jewish Law, he debates with RavYosef.  Rav Yosef was a disciple of Judah bar Ezekiel and was Abaye's teacher. He challenged many of rulings that emanated from the of the academy of Pumbedita.

A marginal note in the Schottenstein edition of this Gomorra (note 25) held that a private shofar is the property of its owner. Therefore, he could feed water to child. But a communal shofar cannot be used as such.
 When the third blast was begun, what was to be removed14 was removed, and what was to be stored away15 was stored away, and the lamp was lit.16 Then there was an interval for as long as it takes to bake a small fish or to place a loaf in the oven; then a teki'ah, teru'ah and a teki'ah were sounded, and one commenced the Sabbath. R. Jose b. R. Hanina said: I have heard that if one  comes to light after the six blasts he may do so, since the Sages gave the hazzan of the community17 time to carry his shofar18 home.19 Said they to him, If so, your rule depends on [variable] standards.20 Rather the hazzan of the community had a hidden place on the top of his roof, where he placed his shofar, because neither a shofar nor a trumpet may be handled [on the Sabbath].21 But it was taught: A shofar may be handled, but not a trumpet?22 -Said R. Joseph: There is no difficulty: The one refers to an individual[‘s]; the other to a community[‘s]. Said Abaye to him, And in the case of an individual's, what is it fit for?-It is possible to give a child a drink therewith?

Thereupon,  Abaye said to Rav Yosef that in fact a Shofar can be used for the same purpose for an impoverished child (presumably the community has a responsibility for taking care of the basic needs of the poor.)



Jewish Encyclopedia's entry for "superstition" says:
The personality of Satan seems to be kept alive in the folk-lore of Russia and Galicia, for it is thought to be lucky if the shofar fails to emit a sound on New-Year's Day, the implication being that Satan is imprisoned therein (this is especially current among the asidim).

One of the most startling of the superstitions observed among modern Jews at Lemberg is the following: If a woman dies pregnant, it is supposed tobe undesirable for her sake and for that of the congregation that the fetus should remain within the body. The corpse is therefore bathed at midnight, and after half an hour the name of the dead is called seven times, and a shofar is blown seven times in her ear. The corpse, with many groans, will then give birth to a dead, undeveloped child ("Urquell," ii. 192; comp. new series, ii. 270).
Of course, some might say that all religious, spiritual, and mystic use of shofar is based on superstition.


Why have long shofarot become popular.

Growing up I only saw short shofars that actually looked like horns from a ram. At some point these very long shofars showed up. Are they naturally from a ram? 
That question was posted at www.quora.com a social media site where individuals can ask questions and the online community "votes" on the best answers.

Jay Gurewitsch posted an excellent answer:
The really long, curlicued shofarot (plural for shofar in Hebrew) are from the Kudu and is standard for the Yemenite Jewish community.

The fact that they "showed up" as you put it is actually quite a tale of religious intolerance being overcome. They became the "in" shofar in Israel in the 60s and 70s and their popularity has spread worldwide since then, I assume through Jewish tourists buying them and bringing them home. The Yemenite community was airlifted en masse to Israel in 1949 in a secret operation known as Operation Magic Carpet. After years of severe discrimination by the European born Jews in charge of religious and secular Israeli institutions, they eventually gained enough political power in Israel so that their traditions and community standards were accepted, and as with their shofar, even became popular with Jews worldwide who saw it as the cool, new thing. Personally, I love the fact that Ashkenazi Jews worldwide now use a Yemenite traditional shofar. Perhaps if more people knew the background of that shofar they might be more tolerant of differences within the Jewish community
I offered additional reasons:
1. Material Culture: In earlier eras, there was greater scarcity. One could hardly have imported an exotic horn from Africa. Today, there are shofarot in abundance in many communities. This leads to a type of competition to stand out by having a bigger and more impressive horn.

2. Relative Security: In many times and locations, shofarot had to be small and easily hidden because it was not safe to blow a horn. Long horns a only used in countries where there is relative security for Jews.

3. Lose of Ties to "Old World": When someone asks me what type of shofar they should use, I tell them to use one similar to the one their grandparents used.  Alas, there has been a great rift in the fabric Jewry, and many people no longer know the ways of their grandparents.

4. Disconnect from the Farm: People used to get the horn for a shofar from the butcher that got it from your neighbor the farmer or shepherd. We no longer are connected with the food chain. A shofar comes from "Israel" and most people no longer know that a kudu is not a ram.

5. Lose of Craftsmanship: Many horns that survive from centuries past are beautifully carved and engraved, even reshaped. Today, there are few skilled horners (crafters), and commerically available shofarot are made with power tools in factories. Length has substituted for artistry when judging a shofar.
 So go online and vote my answer up.

Shofar is precedent for saxophone

Mike Gerber, author of Jazz Jews and host of "Kosher Jam" on EuropeJazzRadio.eu, wrote me about an interviewing soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom:
Jane Ira Bloom (Photo: Erika Kapin)
I wondered aloud if, for Jewish jazz musicians, soprano saxophone might be modern substitute for the clarinet – that mainstay of klezmer outfits and the instrument famously associated with Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw?  Jane’s riposte fair took my breath away:
“I’ll go even further back – for the shofar, that’s what I think. I have two thoughts about it; one is that it is connected to the shofar in some way.* And the other is that I think something else that informs Jewish thought is gravitating towards innovation. I remember in high school learning who the great innovative Jewish painters were and, wow, there is a tradition among Jewish artists to be on the edge. So I thought, wow, yeah, I could be part of this, that’s the way I think. And the soprano saxophone being an instrument that hasn’t enjoyed quantity of performance in the jazz tradition – it hasn’t been played as much as the alto, tenor and even the baritone, so it’s an instrument that, if you want to say something new, it’s not a bad place to go.”
*Torah says the same thing when it identifies Jubal, whose name is another term for shofar, as the forefather of musicians.

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