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What is a shofar?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht


Library » Holidays » Rosh Hashanah | Subscribe | What is RSS?


A. A Shofar (pronounced SHOW-fur) is perhaps the oldest wind instrument known to man. Made of the hollowed horn of an animal, usually a ram, it is blown on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, the month of Elul, and by some Chassidic groups on Hoshanah Rabbah. Shofars are generally beige or black in color and around 1.5 feet long with a half-spiral at the far end, though some can be very long, twisted, and/or dark in color.

B. The shofar’s haunting, otherworldly wail symbolizes the plaintive call of the innocent soul. It is blown during Elul to arouse one to self-reflection, on Rosh Hashanah to inaugurate G-d as King of the Universe, and on Yom Kippur to cap off the day as it surmounts its spiritual peak.

C. Because of its powerful, thundering voice, a shofar was sounded at events of earth-shattering significance. A surround-sound shofar blast filled the atmosphere when the Torah was given at Mt. Sinai, Joshua conquered Jericho with seven assault-shofar city circlings, Jewish kings were inaugurated to the tune of Blow-That-Shofar, and the greatest shofar recital in all eternity will accompany the arrival of Moshiach.

The shofar’s haunting, otherworldly wail symbolizes the plaintive call of the innocent soul
What is a shofar used for? How is it blown?

1. Toot Your Own Horn

Hearing the shofar on Rosh Hashanah is Positive Mitzvah #170. Blown with the same lip-reverberation technique used for trumpet, a total of 100 notes are sounded on each of Rosh Hashanah’s two days, and one very long blast is blown at the very end of Yom Kippur.

2. A Noteworthy Performance

The blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah consists of four sounds sounded in a specific order: tekiah (pronounced t-KEE-uh), shvarim (pronounced (sh-VAW-reem) teruah (pronounced t-ROO-uh) and tekiah gedolah (pronounced geh-DOH-luh). Each lasts approximately three seconds except tekiah gedolah. Tekiah is a straight, unbroken blast, shevarim (which means “broken ones”) is a tekiah broken into three one-second segments, teruah is a staccato division of the tekiah into nine rapid-fire notes, while tekiah gedolah is a triple tekiah, lasting a minimum of three consecutive tekiot, or nine seconds.

3. Blow It Big Time

Before the Rosh Hashanah Musaf services we blow the Shofar as follows:

Tekiah, shevarim, teruah, tekiah

Tekiah, shevarim, teruah, tekiah

Tekiah, shevarim, teruah, tekiah

Tekiah, shevarim, tekiah

Tekiah, shevarim, tekiah

Tekiah, shevarim, tekiah

Tekiah, teruah, tekiah

Tekiah, teruah, tekiah

Tekiah, teruah, tekiah gedolah

Six times during the musaf service, and once after, the shofar is blown in the following order: 

Tekiah, shevarim, teruah, tekiah

Tekiah, shevarim, tekiah

Tekiah, teruah, tekiah

TAGS: Shofar


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Why is the Shofar blown 100 times on each day of Rosh Hashanah?

Posted by: Leslie Friedlander, S.Glastonbury, CT on Sep 24, 2005

Great website.... I am still searching for this answer... Thank you.

Editor's Comment


Holidays » Rosh Hashanah » Shofar

(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
Rosh Hashanah
The Jewish New Year. An early autumn two day holiday marking the creation of Adam and Eve. On this day we hear the blasts of the ram's horn and accept G-d's sovereignty upon ourselves and the world. On Rosh Hashanah we pray that G-d should grant us all a sweet New Year.
Yom Kippur
Day of Atonement. This late-autumn high-holiday is the holiest day of the year. We devote this day to repentance and all healthy adults are required to fast.
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
The horn of a Kosher animal. The Shofar is sounded on the holiday of Rosh Hashanah, and is intended to awaken us to repentance. Also blown to signify the conclusion of the Yom Kippur holiday.
1. Assumed the leadership of the Jewish people after Moses died in 1267 BCE. He split the Jordan River and led the Jewish people in their conquest of the Promised Land. 2. One of the 24 books of the Bible, which chronicles Joshua's leadership.
The additional prayer service added (after the morning prayers) on Sabbath, Biblically mandated holidays and the first day of the Jewish month.
The 6th month on the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to August-September. This is the month which precedes Tishrei, the month of the High Holidays, and is a month of introspection and repentance.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.