What is a Shofar?
The Shofar is blown throughout the prayer services on Rosh Hashanah and during that time the congregation stand in silence and think about the past year, their sins and their desire to repent.
Is the Shofar a modern instrument?
Not at all. The Shofar was used as far back as the First Temple in Judaism when it was used to announce ceremonies and in the service of G-d in the Temple. Additionally, it was used in war and to herald the beginning of special periods such as the Jubilee Year.
What horns are popularly used as Shofars?
Two of the most popular Shofars used today are the Ram’s Horn Shofars and the Yemenite Shofars.
- The Ram’s Horn Shofar is the classic Shofar due to the Biblical story of the Binding of Isaac that it evokes. Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son Isaac up to G-d as one of the ten tests he faced by G-d. At the last moment he was informed by a heavenly voice that G-d had no desire for such a sacrifice and sent a ram that got stuck in the nearby bushes for Abraham to sacrifice instead of Isaac. One of the proposed reasons for blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah is to “remind” G-d of our forefather’s righteous deeds. Essentially, we are saying, “G-d we are unworthy but remember the deeds of our forefather Abraham who was ready to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac up to you and how you sent him a ram to sacrifice in his stead. Please have mercy on us in his merit.”
- The Yemenite Shofar Horns are so called because they are the kind used by Jewish people originating from Yemen. In comparison with European Shofars, Yemenite Shofars are more spiraled and bigger in shape, due to their origin being the horns of antelope. It is understood that the larger horn means that there is a larger mouthpiece which makes it easier for the player to elicit sounds from the horn.
Rivkah Ben Yisrael is writing about Jewish customs and gifts at blog.canaan-online.com.
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