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What does Judaism say about trumpets?

by Rabbi Mendy Hecht

  

Library » History » The Holy Temples » Its Vessels | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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A. First of all, what is a trumpet? Here are a few definitions: a bell-ended, looped soprano brass wind instrument; something shaped or sounding like this instrument; a resounding call, as that of the elephant; to give forth a resounding call; to sound or proclaim loudly.

B. As you can see (or should we say hear?), the trumpet is not an ordinary audio experience. Its emphatic, bold sound serves as a great wake-up call to cadets at West Point, a pick-up to the band’s tempo at a wedding, or a ringing, triumphant statement in a symphony orchestra. A trumpet is a jolt to the ears, adding spice to sound as pepper adds pizzazz to your pizza. Because of the raw, primal power of a lusty trumpet blast, trumpets, like shofars, were used to mark daily and special events throughout Jewish history. Positive Mitzvah #59 instructs the Jewish community to sound trumpets at the bringing of the daily and holiday Temple sacrifices, as well as upon enemy invasion and call-up of the army.

The trumpet-adept Kohanim would sound the... trumpets, with three blasts every morning to ceremonially announce the opening of the Temple’s main gates
C. The trumpets used by the Jews of antiquity were like shofars—one-tone horns that had no pitch control. While no one knows for certain what they looked like, they were said to be made of silver, around 18 inches long, and consisting of straight, flute-like shafts with bell-like, flared openings.

How were the trumpets used?

1. Get Moved

A good trumpet blast exhilarates, empowers and invigorates people. And so did the Temple sacrifices: they inspired witnesses to introspection and self-improvement. The Kohanim thus sounded nine trumpet blasts at each of the two regular daily sacrifices, adding another nine if there was a Musaf sacrifice in the schedule.

2. The Original Signal Corps

The trumpet-adept Kohanim would sound the chatzotzrot (pronounced khah-TZOH-tz’roht), or trumpets, with three blasts every morning to ceremonially announce the opening of the Temple’s main gates. They also trumpeted Shabbat’s arrival with three blasts Friday afternoon, and three again just before Shabbat began. Altogether, at least twenty-one trumpet sounds were heard in the Temple every day.

3. All up in Arms

Trumpet-inspired Teshuvah was the motive for tooting those horns when an enemy attacked ancient Israel. The trumpets weren’t magic weapons that would destroy opposing forces—they would awaken the Jewish people to pray to G-d, and when the people would pray for victory, G-d would respond positively.

TAGS: temple, trumpet

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Miscellaneous

Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Teshuvah
Repentance. Or, more literally, "return" to G-d. Teshuvah involves regretting the past and making a firm resolution not to repeat the offense.
Kohanim
Plural form of Kohain. Priests of G-d. This title belongs to the male descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. The primary function of the Kohain was to serve in the Holy Temple. Today the Kohain is still revered and it is his function to recite the Priestly Blessings on certain occasions.
Musaf
The additional prayer service added (after the morning prayers) on Sabbath, Biblically mandated holidays and the first day of the Jewish month.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
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.