A shofar is a religious instrument that has been in Jewish custom for generations. The sounds of the shofar are traditionally heard in synagogues several times a year during High Holiday services.
When do we hear the Sounds of the Shofar?
In ancient times the sound of a shofar was used to summon people collectively, to make announcements and to signal a forewarning war. To this day, the shofar is blown on Rosh Hashanah and the Atonement day (Yom Kippur). On Yom Kippur the sounds of the shofar blowing in synagogues indicate that the fasting is over.
The shofar sounds are also heard at Jewish weddings and other festive occasions. It is also customary to hear a shofar blowing when a new Torah scroll is paraded and displayed at the synagogues.
On Rosh Hashanah the shofar marks the beginning of the Jewish New Year. These are days of self assessment and repentance, and therefore, the sounds of the shofar represent a spiritual wake up call for believers. According to tradition, it is a mitzvah to listen to the sounds of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Although women and children are not obliged by Jewish law to listen to the Shofar on Rosh Hahshana, they are nevertheless encouraged to do so in all Jewish communities across the world.
The sounds of Shofar
According to our Old Sages, the shofar is blown in four types of sounds:
The Tekiah sound is a long and sustained sound that varies depending on the shofar blower (also: blaster, Tokea, master of the blast, Ba’al Tekiah) breath length, technical and physical ability to sustain the sound. In addition, some shofar blowers (Toke’im) tend to ornament the end (or the beginning) of the blow with a Glissando which is a glide from a low to a higher pitch.
three short and sharp succeeding sounds. The characters of the shvarim sounds resemble a cry, a howl or a moan. An evidence for that is found back in the Talmud Babvli (43, 2).
a series of short wailing staccato sounds (sudden stop in the sound followed by a silence). Traditionally, the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, is called also a Yom Teruah – a day of the Shofar Teruah sound. The Teruah sound resembles sorrow and anxiety but also a feeling of grandeur. In ancient battles in the time of the Torah – the Israeli army would march into battle hearing the Teruah sound. The sound therefore is perceived to inspire the listeners with a sense of heroism and power.
In Jewish tradition, the shofar blower ends a sequence of of blows: Tekiah – Shevraim – Teruah with a long powerful sound called Tekiah Gdolah (grand blowing in Hebrew) and should be three times longer then the preceding Teruah.
** it’s important to mention that there are debates in the Talmud about how each sound should produced in terms of length, character etc.. in addition, there are different interpretations between the various Jewish communities.
Where do I buy a Shofar?
Besides getting a good instructor, in order to learn how to blow a shofar it is possible to buy a shofar. These days you can get a small ram’s horn shofar in a very affordable price; and even the giant Yemenite shofars are not extremely expensive. You can always check online for current shofars on sale. It will have all the kosher certifications and will be shipped from Israel to almost any country in the world.