What is a Shofar?

A Shofar is an ancient wind instrument, made from the horn of an animal. Today it is used mainly for Jewish ritual purposes, especially on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the day of repentance). In ancient Israel, the Shofar was used to announce events of any kind, similar to church bells in Christianity.

The correct plural of Shofar in Hebrew is Shofarot, though many say “Shofars” in.

How is a Shofar made?

Materials – The Shofar can be made from the horns of any kosher animal, e.g. goat, ram or Kudu; except the bovine (cow) family.

Making the Shofar –The horn is composed of keratin, mostly a structural protein that is present also in hooves, nails and feathers. The keratinous horn is very hard and resistance to physical forces. You may see rams clashing horns as part of the pre-mating rituals. The horn is separated from the internal bone part. Then it is heated and shaped by applying pressure so as to obtain the desired form of the shofar. The mouthpiece is drilled at the narrow tip of the horn after the desired shape is a achieved. Finally the shofar is polished to obtain the esthetic luster. Additional ornamentation in the shape of silver or gold plating is sometimes applied.

Quality control – The Shofar must be perfect. It cannot be cracked, fixed with glue or patched. To test the Shofar, fill it with water and look for leaks. If the Shofar leaks, it is not kosher for Jewish ceremonial purposes.

How to blow a Shofar?

Blowing a Shofar is a bit like blowing brass instruments. The sound depends on how you press and pucker your lips, and on the acoustic qualities of the mouthpiece and the horn. Simply close your lips together place the shofar mouthpiece on your puckered lips and blow through them, until you get a vibrating sound (like a “raspberry” sound that children make).

Many experts use the side of their mouth to blow the Shofar, in order to get the right sound. You will need to adjust your lips so the sound resonates properly depending on the physical construction of the particular Shofar.

What are the ritual Shofar sounds?

The folloeing sounds or calls are made with the Shofar during the Jewish ritual: T’key-ah – A long blast beginning in musical mid-range and finishing as a high note. Shvarim – Three consecutive wailing sounds. The duration of all three together is the length of a T’key-ah. Troo-ah – A long ululating sound. There are two main variants of the Troo-ah. One tradition uses nine short staccato calls, in rapid sequence. The other is a single long call with nine wavering ululations. T’key-ah Gdolah (Big Long T’key-ah) – is a T’key-ah that you continue as long as you can

Maintenance of the shofar

Keep the shofar dry at all times. Store it covered with a soft dry cloth. After blowing the shofar remove the extra moisture cumulated from your breath