A Brief Review
Blowing the Shofar is an inseparable part of the atmosphere of The Days of Awe and The Jewish High Holidays.
The High Holidays’ climax is Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashanah is also called “Yom Teruah”, (the day of blowing the Shofar), as we find in the book of Numbers (29:1):
And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have a holy convocation: ye shall do no manner of servile work; it is a day of blowing the horn unto you.
In Ancient Times
In Biblical times the Shofar had several other uses. When the Temple still existed, Shofar blowing was performed on holidays and merry days ( Numbers 10:10):
“Also in the day of your gladness, and in your appointed seasons, and in your new moons, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt-offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace-offerings…”
The commencement of Shabbat was announced with Shofars, and with Shofars the beginning of the months and of the fiftieth year jubilee (Yovel) were marked. Also the Torah was given to the constantly growing sound of the Shofar, and the walls of Jericho fell with the blowing of Shofars.
Kings were crowned to the sound of Shofars and with Shofars the people were summoned for wars, were warned from dangers and learnt about victories in battle. Moves undertaken by the people’s army were accompanied with Shofar blowing. The reason for that was frequently the strong sound that could be produced from a Shofar.
In the prayers we say: “And a great Shofar will sound, and the voice of thin silence shall be heard, and angels shall rush, and awe and fear shall grasp them, and they shall say this is the Day of Judgment…“
Since the Temple was destroyed and the Sanhedrin abolished, the Shofar remained for fulfilling the commandments on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. In some communities the Shofar is blown also during the days of Selihot and fasting.
In the history of the State of Israel
The Shofar played important roles on special occasions in the history of the State of Israel:
- In the Six Day War (1967) immediately after the Wailing Wall, which is a remnant of our Temple, was conquered, Israel’s Chief Rabbi blew the Shofar for victory.
- When the president of Israel is sworn in, a Shofar is blown.
- The hostages released on the Entebbe Operation were greeted upon returning home with the sound of a Shofar.
- Some communities still blow the Shofar on the Mimuna festival on the last evening of Passover.
- At Elijah’s Cave and at Tombs of the Just, some worshipers blow the Shofar on special prayers.
Legends and secrets surround the Shofar makers and the process of making it. In fact, more is unknown than known. Here you may have a glimpse at the unique world of one of the oldest and most special tools of worship in Jewish culture.
Click on one of the links to learn more about this world.