‘Shofar has a piercing blast and marks special events’

June 24, 2015

Shofar and Harry's

ANCIENT ORIGIN:  Having attended a series of seminars about the Jewish roots of Christendom, I bought a shofar out of curiosity to see if I could play it. Here it is being tried out on Branksome Chine.


Kudu horn

BIGGER VERSION: This Is a Yemeni Jewish version of the shofar made from the horn of the greater kudu. Picture by Olve Utne.



A MUSICAL instrument of historical significance is mentioned more times in the Torah and the Bible than any other.

The shofar is traditionally made out of a ram’s horn, or alternatively a goat’s horn or kudu antelope and is blown like a bugle but unlike its modern equivalent it lacks pitch-altering devices and is dependent on the player’s embouchure – the shaping of the mouth around the instrument.

Shofar-blowing is incorporated into Jewish festival events such as Rosh Hashanah – the Jewish New Year – and Yom Kippur.

According to Jewish law, a shofar can be made of any horn of an animal from the Bovidae family, except a cow. Bovidae horns are made out of keratin – the same material as human toes and finger nails. Antlers can’t be used for this function as they can’t be hollowed out.

The horn is flattened and sharpened with the application of heat and softens it. A hole is made from the tip of the horn to its natural hollow inside.

It needs to be played like a European brass instrument, with the player or musician blowing through the hole causing the air column inside to vibrate. Here is what it sounds like.

Sephardi shofars have a carved mouthpiece resembling that of a trumpet or a French horn but Ashkenazi shofars do not.

The shofar has ties to what are called “Days of Repentance” and inspiration usually comes from hearing the piercing blasts. The shofar is blown after morning services throughout the Jewish calendar month of Elul, the last of the civil year and the sixth of the Jewish ecclesiastical year.

For those who may be wondering what this has got to do with Christianity, it is to do with knowing the Judeo-Christian roots of what it means. There is no attempt on my part to convert anyone to Judaism.

As well as its use to mark Jewish calendar events above, it was also referred to in the Old Testament to convene meetings, preparation for war, to announce the new moon and the Jubilee year and to give praise to God, or as the Jewish faith calls him, Yahweh.

Some biblical scholars believe the shofar is referred to as a trumpet in Revelation, 1 Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15 and Matthew 15 and they claim it will be the sound heralding the second coming of Jesus.

It is also said to change the spiritual atmosphere of a place and drives away spiritual entities that would seek to cause anyone harm.


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