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Shofar SounderŐs Reference Manual

By Arthur L. Finkle

Shofar Sounding is an arcane skill. There generally is no formal training because sounding is a once a year occurrence. Usually, someone who has played a brass instrument is selected (conned?) to sound the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The Shofar WebPage intends to approach Shofar Sounding in a scientific and respectfully religious manner. Although not much has been written about the Shofar, I have attempted to fill in the gaps.

For example, in my book, I cite:


Since I wrote the Shofar Sounders Reference Manual, I have written on such topics as:

Three years of viewer questions presents the exploration of the topics below.

You can purchase an updated manual, Easy Guide to Shofar Sounding for only $3.95 at Torah Aura

Making a Shofar

Get the horn from a kosher animal (slaughtered in a kosher way) except that of the cow (because the golden cow was connected with false worship: ŇIt came about, as soon as Moses came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses' anger burned, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them at the foot of the mountain.Ó Exodus 32:19) The horn of the cow and ox were also disqualified since they were called "keren" in Hebrew, as opposed to the word Shofar which was applied more commonly to the sheep and goat (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah).
Kosher: Goat - Ram - Antelope - Gazelle - Bighorn sheep, Ibex (according to some this is the same as the wild goat)


Getting the Shofar Ready

The horn is really
made of keratin, a natural growth similar to toe nails.  The Journal of 'Biological Museum Methods' (Vol. 1 Page 331) suggests boiling the skull with horns for about 2 – 3 hours for the horns to twist off.  Then, scrap clean the inside cartilage and sprinkle with borax.  Clean out the shell of the horn by boiling of soaking in water and washing soda.  The cartilage can be pulled out with the aid of a pick. If the horns are small, the cartilage can be removed in about half an hour.


The Mouthpiece is Crafted


Dry the hollowed out horn completely.  Then, with a soft wire, measure how far the hollow of the Shofar extends. Measure one inch farther on the outside and cut the tip off with a coping saw or hacksaw.


Drill a 1/8"hole with an electric drill (I know a Ball Tekiah who uses a dental drill) from the sawed-off end until the bit reaches the hollow of the horn.


Using various bits from an electric modeling set (we use the Dremel M #2 Moto-Tool Set, which looks like a lightweight electric hand drill and comes with about 24 attachments), carve a bell-shaped mouthpiece at the end of the Shofar, similar to the one on a trumpet. Smooth the edges of the mouthpiece with the electric model tool. The mouthpiece may require modification in size and shape for a particular embouchure.  

The Test


Indeed, since all embouchures are different, the Shofar Sounder should test the Shofar in order to make adjustments with the mouthpiece.



Finding a Shofar

Arthur L. Finkle

Contact Click here

In selecting a Shofar, it is critical to sound all the available Shofars because the easier to sound it, the better. Your primary interest is in the quality of the tone and the ease it is achieved. Almost any hollow tube can be made to produce a sound. But the sound of desired is the true tone unique to the Shofar. A perfect one cannot be really found because its rough method of construction results in many flaws.

Even the Shofar that seems to be satisfactory is liable to warp. The hope is that a Shofar will expand and contract reasonably evenly with changes in temperature so as not to throw the notes out of tune. This factor is not new to musical instruments whose pitch is always subject to correction. (Finkle, 1993)

Remember that you should blow the Shofar at the side our mouth. Right handers should blow on the right side of their mouths; left-handers, the left side.

Practice on the Shofars by making a buzzing with your lips to see if you can make a note. If you can, then the mouthpiece should fit your embouchure (lip and facial muscle configuration), limited as it may be at this point.

The price of a ram's horn Shofar generally runs about $40 to $80. A Shefardic (large) Shofar costs from $75 to $150. A triple-twisted Shofar costs $150 and up. If you want to display the Shofars, you may want to buy a Shofar stand, about $20.

Biblical References

Arthur L. Finkle


The Shofar had several religious roles recorded in the tanakh (the bible), such as the transfer of the ark of the covenant (2 Samuel 6:15; 1 chronicles 15:28); the announcement of the new moon (psalms 81:4); the beginning of the religious new year (numbers 29:1); the day of atonement (Leviticus 25:9); the procession preparatory to the feast of tabernacles (Mishnah, Hullin 1:7); the libation ceremony (Mishnah, ROSH HASHANAH 4:9); and the havdalah ceremony marking the end of a festival (Mishnah, Hullin 1:7).

"Throughout the day, Abraham saw the ram become entangled in a tree, break loose and go free. Then, become entangled in a shrub, break loose and go free. Then again, becoming entangled in a thicket breaks loose and goes free. The holy one who is blessed said: "so shall your children become entangled in many kinds of sons and trapped in many kingdoms. But in the end, they will be redeemed by the sound of the Shofar." (Sefer Haggadah 3:45).

In addition, the Shofar had a number of secular roles, such as coronating a king (2 Samuel 5:10; 1 Kings 1:34; 2 Kings 1:13) and signaling in times of war to assemble troops, to attack, to pursue, and to proclaim victory (Numbers 10:9; Judges 6:4; Jeremiah 4:5 and Ezekiel 33:3-6).

In post-biblical times, the Shofar was enhanced in its religious use because of the ban on playing musical instruments as a sign of mourning for the destruction of the temple. (It is noted that a full orchestra played in the temple, including, perhaps, a primitive organ.) The Shofar continues to announce the New Year and the new moon, to introduce the Sabbath, and to carry out the commandments on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The secular uses have been discarded (although the Shofar was sounded to commemorate the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967) (Judith Kaplan Eisendrath, Heritage of Music, New York: UAHC, 1972, pp. 44-45).

Mishnah Berurah: Laws of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur

Compiled by Arthur L. Finkle

The mitzvah of hearing the sounds of the Shofar is emphasized that the mitzvah is fulfilled even if the Shofar is stolen or if the owner does not know that someone has "borrowed" his Shofar (MB 586:1)

If a Shofar is to be repaired, the Gemara says that if the hole is filled up with the same material of the Shofar then it is valid. The Rambam comment that three conditions have to be met:

  1. the blowing is not interfered with (the sound has to be very similar the original sound)
  2. the hole is filled with the same type of material as the Shofar
  3. greater part of the Shofar remained

The Rosh propounds that even if the hole is filled up different material from that of the Shofar, then it is valid, provided the remainder of the greater part of the Shofar remained and the blowing was not interfered with.

Even if the hole is not filled up, then the sound is still valid. However, the Acharonim ruled that if the greater part of the Shofar had a hole, the sound was invalid, even if there was a hand-breadth (required minimum length) (Sha'ar Ha-Tziyun)

However, in a time of pressing need when there is no other Shofar available, then it is valid to use a Shofar, if the hole were patched up with dissimilar material, if the greater part remained and the sound is similar.

If one removes the different fill prior to the Yom Tov, then the ruling on using a Shofar with a perforation would hold. (MB 586:7)

Split Shofar

If a Shofar is split lengthwise, it is invalid. However, there are authorities who say that ,when the Shofar had a minimal split is still invalid, unless it is bound by a thread or string so that the split will not widen. If the Shofar is filled with glue, the Shofar is valid, if the glue is not noticeable. If the glue is noticeable, the then glue is considered as a filling made with a dissimilar material.. However, if the sound of the glued Shofar has not changed, then it is valid. ((MB 856:9)

If the Shofar splits breadth-wise (around the circumference of the Shofar), it is invalid if the split is on the mouthside and if the length required (four thumb-breadths) remains, even if the split interferes with the blowing.

One cannot add to the Shofar from material of another Shofar to enhance its beauty or one cannot create a Shofar out of many Shofars. (MB 586:10)

If one scraped the Shofar on the inside or the outside, even, very thin like a scab, it is valid - even if the sound changes because the sound was not caused by foreign material. (MB 585:14)

Cannot apply gold to the Shofar where one blows the Shofar (MB 585:16)

If gold on the inside, it is invalid. If on the outside, it is valid unless the sound changes.

Shofar with carvings as decorations are valid (MB 585:17)

If one does not touch his mouth to the Shofar but nevertheless can produce a sound at a distance, invalid (MB 585:19)

587 Blowing the Shofar Inside a Pit

If the hearer, who is outside a pit or cave, hears the reverberation from a pit, then he does not fulfill the obligation. If the hearer is within the pit or cave, he fulfills the obligation. (587:1)

If one starts blowing the Shofar in the pit and then comes out of the pit playing the Shofar, the hearing is fulfilled.

If one hears the blast but with no intention of fulfilling the mitzvah, the obligation is not met.

There is a minority decision of the above statement. (587:3)

588 Time for the Blowing of the Shofar

1. Time for blowing is the day and not the night. The mitzvah is best performed from the time of sunrise onwards. If one blew at the crack of dawn, he will have fulfilled. If partly before the crack of dawn and partially after, no fulfill.

  1. If one listened to nine blasts, even by nine different Shofar sounders, one fulfills the obligatoin of hearing the sound of he Shofar. If one hears with interruption, it is not valid because there has to be a tekiah before and one after the main notes. If two Shofars play at the same time, the obligation is not fulfilled. If a Shofar and a trumpet play at the same time, one's listening to a Shofar sound is not fulfilled.
  2. We not not sound the Shofar on Shabbat because of temptation to carry more than four cubits in a public domain.

589 The People Fit to Sound the Shofar

  1. Whoever is not obligated to fulfill the mitzvah his performance fit does not fulfill pothers in their obligation to fulfill the mitzvah.
  2. No valid - deaf mute, moron and a child exempt
  3. Women are exempt because the mitzvah is time bound
  4. A hermaphrodite may make his blowing serve for his own kind only
  5. Only a freeman can blow; not a slave.
  6. Women blowing still will receive a reward. If someone who already has blown blows for women, it is OK. A woman can sound for other women; however, women should not make a blessing

9. If one blows with the intention that all who hear will perform the mitzvah, it is OK: Shut-ins; women who have had baby.

If someone passes by and does intend to hear the Shofar, he can perform he mitzvah because the community blower blows for everybody. If he stands still, it is presumed he intends to hear.

If a blind blower was dismissed but the community did not find a blower as proficient, he should be appointed as community blower. The touchstone is proficiency not disability. Radbaz

MB 590 Proper Order Of The Sounds

1. Nine blasts must be sounded both on Rosh Hashanah and on Yom Kippur.

The teruah sound is on doubt whether it is the crying sound (shevarim) of the yelping (nine staccato notes). Therefore, the Sages combined the shevarim and the teruah sounds. To dispel all doubt we sound the three sets of the following

  1. If one errs by playing two shevarim sounds before a teruah sound, if he realized immediately, he should blow anther shever then. If he not realize until after he played the teruah sound, he should go back to repeat the shevarim, teruah and tekiah. The first tekiah is valid.. however, if the Shofar sounder errs in the other two series, then the first tekiah blast is not valid and he ahs to complete the entire series.

MB 592 Praying The Musaf Prayer Aloud And The Shofar Blasts

MB 592:1

It is the practice to blow the series: Kingship (malchuyot) Tekiah, teruah-shevarim, tekiah, three times; Tekiah, shevarim, tekiah, three times with the blessings containing remembrance (Zichronot); Tekiah, shevarim, tekiah, there times with the Shofar. Congregants must stand for this event. Although, in the minority, in some communities the practice is three series of sounds are only sounded once each.

2&3 The decorum for the blasts is that no one should interrupt his [prayer during the Shofar sounding and none should speak during the blasts either sitting or standing.

4. Although customary for the same Baal Tekiah to sound the Shofar throughout the service, it is not essential. In other words, other Ball Tekioahs may sound the Shofar at different parts of the service, when the Shofar is sounded.

593:2 If the Baal Tekiah does not know the sequence of the blasts or makes a mistake during the sequence of blasts, he should proceed if he gets two of the blasts sequences correct because, according to Torah law, we do not know which is in fact the required series. Therefore, one should make the blast so one series that he knows how to blow in case it coincides with the true series required.

2 . Whether saying the blessing over the Shofar is recited before =or after the blowing is not essential


If someone is unfamiliar with the Shofar blasts of the prayers on another town, he should return to the town where he finds the sounds familiar.


After the service it is the practice for a long teruah sound to be blown without the tekiah sound. There are also towns where it is the practice to blow again the thirty Shofar sounds after the prayer service.

It is permissible to teach a child how to blow the Shofar after series end.

623 Neilah Service

12. One should blow the Shofar the sounds tekiah, shevarim teruah, tekiah, although there are authorities who say that one should blow one tekiah counts. The Shofar should be sounded after the community prayer has said the kaddish following the Neilah prayer. Some localities have adopted the practice of having the Shofar sounded after the kaddish prayer.

Biblical Citations of the Great Shofar Ram's horn

"With trumpets and sounds of the Shofar, praise the Lord." Psalm 98:6

"Shall the ramŐs horn be sounded in the city and the people not tremble." Amos 3:6

"With the sound of the Shofar waxed louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him." Exodus 19:19

Tekiah TEKIAH - the blast with honor guards before and after

Teruah-Shevarim Notes of sadness

Tekiah, Shevarim, Tekiah The entire note combination (Finkle)

Ram's horn

"Abraham offered the ram instead of his son." Genesis 22:13

"The Great Shofar shall be sounded and they that are dispersed shall worship God at Jerusalem." Isaiah 27:13

"When the Shofar is sounded, hear, all you inhabitants of the world." Isaiah 18:13

Sounds of the Shofar

Arthur L. Finkle

Notes came in sequence, in order to show this compromise. (Rosh Hashanah 4:9) There are also regional (Lithuanian, Hungarian, Sephardim, etc.) Differences regarding the exact notes sounded for the different sounds. The following section is based on the system I use.

The tŐkiyah note starts out as a low note, near the fundamental tone of the shofar; then it rises quickly about three notes in the diatonic scale. Finally, it proceeds to a full octave above the first note. This may be diagrammed as follows:

The higher notes are obtained by tightening the lips.

The shÔvarim consists of the short blasts, each one-third the duration of the tŐkiyah.

The tŐruah is simply nine staccato notes sounded in rapid succession. Again, the duration is one ninth that of the tŐkiyah.

To correctly render the tŐruah, it is necessary to accent the last note. There is also another school that accents the last note and takes the note up a third. The tŐruah is a sound of nine staccato blasts. The tŐkiyah gŐdolah is an elongated tŐkiyah. Hold it as long as you are able. You should be able to hold it for 30-40 seconds with the proper breathing from the diaphragm and chest cavity, as any wind instrumentalist will tell you. When you have developed your embouchure sufficiently well, it is possible to elongate the third note as well as the second. This end flourish is dramatic. Which brings me to an often-asked question: "how long should you hold the last note (tŐkiyah gŐdolah)?" Many people feel self-conscious about holding the note too long so as to seem to show off my answer is rooted in the Mishnah, ROSH HASHANAH 3:3, which indicates that the duty of the day (Rosh ha-Shanah) falls on the shofar. Therefore, Rosh Hashanah is associated with the shofar. Thus, the more emphasis on the shofar, the better. (Ramban, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Shofar 11)

Baal Tekiah's Embouchure.

The embouchure is the manner in which the lips and tongue are applied to such a mouthpiece. The word derives from the French embouchure (to put into the mouth). You must have the proper embouchure in order to sound the Shofar. Many Shofar sounders are not brass instrumentalists and do not know the techniques developed over the past three hundred years. If Shofar repairing requires the Shofar Sounder to change his embouchure, then we find another factor to consider whether the Shofar changes its tone. If, in fact, the repaired Shofar required a change in embouchure, the likelihood is that the Shofar's sound changes.

To form an embouchure two groups of muscles are at work. The first are those muscles that bring our lips to an extreme pucker, such as would be used to whistle--the muscles around our lips. The second group are those which bring our lips to a smile--the cheek muscles. Either group can form a brass embouchure of sorts.

Muscles can only contract or relax. When you pucker your lips, the cheek muscles relax and the lips contract. When you smile, your cheek muscles contract while the lips relax.

To form a correct brass embouchure the actions of smiling and puckering must be combined and balanced in sort of a "tug-of-war." Too much puckering can lead to a very soggy tone, while too much smiling will lead to a very bright tone with little endurance.

If the embouchure changes it may affect one or a combination of: 1) the angle of mouthpiece placement; 2) wet (moist) or dry lips; 3) amount of lip opening through which the air passes (the lip aperture); 4) the angle of the chin; and 5) the amount of mouthpiece pressure in playing the high or low notes. (Farkas, Philip, 1962; Arban, 1908; and Whitner, 1997).

Presenting ideas on Shofar playing techniques fill a need in the area about which there is very sparse material in English. This article introduces some brass instrumentalist techniques to fit the aerophone, called a Shofar. Thin of orchestrating these techniques in to your repertoire so that you can give it all you have to fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah (Shulchan Aruch 585:3)

Mouthpiece Placement

For 300 years, French horn teachers have advocated using a mouthpiece placement of 2/3 upper lip and 1/3 lower lip. With a Shofar, I find this technique valid. The fleshy part of the upper lip is the area that makes the quality of sound. Accordingly, this upper lip musculature should be developed. A higher proportion of upper lip is also beneficial in playing the entire range of the Shofar, which is generally two octaves--too little upper lip will not allow for production of the lowest notes of the horn.

Wet (Moist) Lips.

Wet lips are especially important for the beginner because the mouthpiece will be free to settle into its most natural position over the fleshy mound on the upper lip. The eminent horn teacher Philip Farkas estimated that approximately 75% of professional brass players play with wet (or moist) lips. The primary advantage of wet lips is that the mouthpiece is free to move around somewhat and find its best, natural placement on the lips when first placed on the lips. This freedom of movement is also helpful in making large register changes as the mouthpiece is not "stuck" in one position. I can see no disadvantages to playing with wet or moist lips for the horn player.

The Function of the Lip Muscles

To form an embouchure three groups of muscles are at work. The first are those muscles that bring our lips to an extreme pucker, such as would be used to whistle--the muscles around our lips. The second group are those which bring our lips to a smile--the cheek muscles. The third group is the muscle developed in the upper lip itself. When you have developed an embouchure, you can actually see these muscles, including the lip muscle by uncovering the lip while looking in a mirror.

Since muscles can only contract or relax, these three groups of muscles have to act in harmony. When you pucker, the cheek muscles relax while the lip contract. When you smile, the cheek muscles contract while the lips relax. Too much puckering can lead to a very soggy tone, while too much smiling will lead to a very bright tone with little endurance.

The Lip Aperture, and the Chin

The formation of the lip aperture is very closely related to the way we use the cheeks and lips. Inside the mouthpiece, the lips form an opening roughly the shape of the opening of a bassoon or oboe reed. If the embouchure is too puckered or too much of a smile this ideal lip aperture shapes will be distorted.

Most often the aperture, if a problem, will be too flat due to too much smile in the embouchure or to the chin being bunched up. The chin should be flat--if it is bunched up this is a sign of a serious embouchure problem, which must be addressed.

Another possible way to look at this same problem is that there may be too much lip in the mouthpiece. Not only does this make the aperture "flat" in shape but also there is a characteristic bad tonal color to this embouchure and lack of dynamic range. Only a little extra lip in the mouthpiece can drastically alter the resulting tonal color. Playing with wet lips and a more open embouchure can make a great deal of difference on the instrument.

Aperture Control

An aperture is the hole through which the air passes form the player into the mouthpiece, eventually making vibrations that become the notes, timbre and loudness we hear. Playing. Especially in the high register, depends on aperture control. The aperture will have to be smaller in the high register than in the low register, and you want to practice in a way that helps you to feel the aperture contraction. If you look at a mirror, you will see that your lip and cheek muscles "smile" the higher the notes you sound.

Try to practice controlling the aperture from inside the mouthpiece, making it smaller from the corners and keeping the same basic shape playing low and high (think of the relative size the opening of double reed instrument (oboe and bassoon), both having the same type of small opening. So, you will constrict your inner lips to control the air coming form you, while keeping the same shape at the opening).

Another method of thinking of this, suggested by Fred Fox in his book Essentials of Brass Playing, is to think of the embouchure being controlled by two sets of muscles. One set is in the corners and is used to produce the sound "eeeeeeee" and the other set is in the middle of the lips and is used to produce the sound "mmmmmmmmmm." Aperture control involves the use of these muscles, especially the muscles used to say "mmmmmmmm." Proper aperture control will help not only the high range but will also help accuracy in general.

Mouthpiece Pressure and Playing High Notes.

Some moderate mouthpiece pressure is obviously required to play brass instruments. However, especially during the warm-up, it is critical to not use excessive mouthpiece pressure in the high range. Only by practicing in this manner can real strength be developed. Why does mouthpiece pressure help in reaching the high notes? The reason is that the extra pressure makes the lip aperture smaller. Farkas gave the example of a doughnut, placed under a piece of glass. If the piece of glass is smashed down on top of the doughnut, the hole in the middle of the doughnut does get smaller.

Our lips are the same as the doughnut in this sense. As we press harder, the aperture gets smaller. The result is higher notes come out. But at the cost of tone and endurance. For Shofar playing, such force is very bad. Particularly a Shofar whose mouthpiece is sharp, the Baal Tekiah, can actually harm his embouchure by digging his lips into the sharp mouthpiece.

The Jaw and the Lips.

The jaw is too often ignored as an element in forming a brass embouchure. The placement of the jaw is very important. The jaw, especially for the horn [and trumpet], MUST be pushed forward somewhat from its normal position at rest, so that the teeth are in line with each other (up and down), as though you were biting a sandwich (but not, however, pushed out beyond being even with the upper teeth). Another easy way to visualize this concept is to imagine spitting a watermelon seed out. You will not roll the lips over one another--the jaw will come forward a bit in a very natural way.

An easy exercise to check the jaw placement is the following: form an embouchure without the mouthpiece and blow. The air stream should go out at the angle of the instrument--nearly straight forward--not at a steep angle down the chin. Most sources on brass pedagogy agree that an embouchure where the lower lip is rolled over the lower teeth and the air stream flows down the chin is not a well-formed embouchure. Blow forwards and down the center of the mouthpiece.

(John Q. Ericson; Philip Farkas, The Art of Brass Playing (Rochester, NY: Wind Music, 1962)

Does the Mouthpiece Have to be Centered?

It is preferable to blow the Shofar from the right side, if possible, for Satan sits on his right to condemn him (Psalms 47:6) here is no Halacha on how to play a Shofar. By inference if it is not comfortable to play the Shofar form the right side, then one should play on the left side of the mouth. (Mishnah Berurah, 585:6, Note 7) I know some people play the Shofar as they would play a brass instrument from the center of their lips. While it is unusual, if they can do it, then let them. However, the more conventional way to place the mouthpiece against the lips is to place it at one sides of your mouth because it is smaller. The smallness matches the


WE MUST WARM-UP! This should not be left to chance or treated lightly by a serious musician on any instrument. If I do not warm-up properly, my performance certainly suffers. Most brass players have several routines. For Shofar sounding, I suggest warming up on the fundamental note. Then, focus on your attack. Then play the Tekiah, Shevorim, Shevorim-Teruah, and Tekiah. Your warm up should be at home because the shul does not offer privacy. In shul, you should hold the Shofar between your arms so that the shorn will become the same temperature as your body. Then you should practice buzzing (for brass players, playing the mouthpiece alone). In the case of Shofar playing, you can buzz by shaping your thumb and forefinger in the shape of a mouthpiece and blow into it, to stimulate your embouchure. (The Art of French Horn Playing by Philip Farkas, The Complete Method by Milan Yancich, and in Embouchure Building by Joseph Singer. There are many good resources out there.)

When Should I Warm-Up? How Much Should I Practice?

Professional brass players warm-up every time they get the instrument out of the case to play. The first warm-up in the morning is the most important, as it sets your embouchure up for the rest of the day. The second and third warm-ups are usually shorter, but need to be there to maintain and build the embouchure.

A related issue is how much to practice, and when. I feel, if time allows, the serious brass student or professional usually practices three times a day for no more than one hour apiece. A Shofar sounder, not being a professional in the brass instrumentalist sense of the word, should practice each day at the same time standing up. Sitting down will change your embouchure.

Initially, practice the fundamental note until you feel your muscles. Do not play too much beyond this level. Your muscles are telling you that they have had enough. By repeated playing, however, your musculature will develop into high quality sound and endurance. Ten minutes is the usual limit.

Once, you have mastered the one fundamental note, you should concentrate eon the attack. Such attack is determined by the position of the tongueŐs touching the lips. In some cases, the tip of the front of the tongue can be the part of the tongue used to tongue the attack. In other cases, you can use the side of your tongue. Some use their side tongue and move it back. The issue is that whatever is most effective for the Shofar Sounder while maintaining a correct embouchure is the correct way.

Sounding the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah

Techniques to Save the Day

Arthur L. Finkle



A Clean First Note

This can be a problem. Some hornists develop a "hesitation attack" where the note does not speak right away in time. The key is to breathe and play in rhythm--do not hold the air at the top of the breath, but let it go and start the first note right in rhythm.

The other aspect, of course, is playing the right note--accuracy! Try to develop a feel for the notes so that you know the sound and "feel" of each note before you play it. Mouthpiece buzzing can be a real help in developing a feel for what Farkas interestingly called the "flavor" of every note.

The "traditional" way for beginners to get their bearings in an attempt to find the first note they wish to play is to play the triad of notes going up from middle C--written c', e', g'--and to find the first pitch from this frame of reference. Ideally, a hornist can hear every note before they play it, although the reality is that this is not always the case. Another method to try is that of locating a note which you feel that you can hit and never miss, like the concert B-flat we tune on, and use that as a frame of reference to mentally locate and "hear" the note you wish to hit.


At the end of a heavy practice session, rehearsal, or performance, a brief warm-down is of great use. I concentrate mine in the low range. Avoid the urge to just throw the horn in the case at the end of a long day--you need to warm down a little.

[If needed, I can provide readers with my warm up materials...write me. A short warm-up is given to horn technique students].

Copyright John Q. Ericson. All rights reserved.


Staccato Tonguing and More

What is staccato? It is sometimes defined as performing a note 1/2 as long as the notated value. The key to performing a beautiful staccato is the space between the notes AND the way we cut off the ends of the notes.

Some students mainly need to create more space--silence!--between the notes. Occasionally in an attempt to create that space will try to play staccato by performing in sort of an extreme "tut-tut-tut" style, cutting off the notes entirely with the tongue. The problem with this technique is that many musical situations will require a short taper or diminuendo at the end of the pitch.

If this is an issue, try instead to articulate "tuh." This will create that short diminuendo necessary for a musical sound. Using the articulation "tuh" gets at the heart of another "difficult to explain" fact of brass playing, that notes are cut off somewhat back in the throat. The same "valve" which closes when we cough, the larynx or voice box, also closes when we cut off notes. The tongue and larynx cut off the notes at almost the same time, with the larynx helping to soften the end of the note. This action is very natural, but for some, this will need to be consciously learned in order to play in a musical manner.

Practice staccato in two ways. Practice slowly and very short--this will help develop the control needed. Also practice a very light and clear staccato--we need both styles.

There can be another related, unconscious problem for brass players. A few students will have a habit of relaxing the embouchure whenever the air is stopped. This is a big problem if trying to perform staccato passages, as this momentary relaxation of the embouchure between every note will make it impossible to play a decent staccato. The embouchure must retain its firmness during staccato passages.

Legato Tonguing

A softer, brushing tongue stroke is desired to create a beautiful legato. Try to articulate "due," "thue," or "lue" and keep the air moving well--the air must move as steadily playing four legato quarter notes as it does playing a whole note.

This type of tonguing is very close in style to the type of tonguing used to produce legato on the trombone. This tonguing style is very important for all brass players to learn.


Lip slurs and flexibility studies are perhaps the most important single item to practice on the horn, as they develop the lip muscles, embouchure control, and tone.

To make a slur, the lips must keep buzzing between the notes, and the air must keep moving. You want to feel a VERY quick glissando from one note to the next--being careful not to perform "the notes between the notes" in larger slurs. Make the change of notes at the last moment. It is a very good idea to practice slurs on the mouthpiece for smoothness.

Copyright John Q. Ericson. All rights reserved.


To play a brass instrument, breathing is obviously important, and it is different than our normal, everyday breathing in several respects. The most important single difference between our normal breathing and breathing to play a brass instrument is that our lungs need to be pretty much full of air. Our lungs need much more air in them than we usually take in during normal daily activities to play a brass instrument well, with a full tone. They should (in my opinion) be nearly full whenever you play anything on the horn.

The diaphragm is the large, flat muscle, which draws air into the lungs. The diaphragm by itself can only fill the lungs about 75% full. To completely fill the lungs requires the additional use of the muscles that surround the rib cage and cause it to expand.

Taking a large breath is a natural and uncomplicated process. What needs to be practiced by most brass players is deep breathing. I recommend two basic exercises.

  1. Breathe in slowly through the mouth for 10 seconds (to the point the lungs are 100% full), hold the breath for 5 seconds, then exhale again slowly for 10 seconds. Repeat several times.
  2. Follow this first exercise with a few quicker breaths that really fill the lungs.

The goals of these simple exercises are to practice using the lungs fully, control of the breath, and to practice taking large breaths quickly.

DO NOT PRACTICE THESE EXERCISES TOO LONG AT ONE TIME! You don't want to pass out--and a minute or two of breathing practice is plenty in any one session.

Good posture is very necessary for complete use of the lungs--if you lean to one side when you play, for example, the lungs cannot fill completely on that side. A final note is that while your lungs can't get bigger through breathing practice, your effective lung capacity can increase because you can learn to use your lungs more completely. We want to develop the use of our full lung capacity.

"Support" – The Diaphragm

Another item related to breathing is "support." Many brass players talk about support, but it is a term that is probably impossible to define. Proper support relates to pushing the air out of the lungs in a way that allows for a full tone, good dynamics, and control. This type of use of the muscles is unnatural, actually--the work of the diaphragm muscle is to pull air IN to the lungs, and the air flows out naturally when it is relaxed.

In playing the horn the muscles below the lungs (above our waist) contract somewhat in supporting the air column, pushing on everything "down there" and forcing the air out of the lungs from below. Especially in the high range, we want to support the air column well. This is a key as well to using less pressure and lip tension--a well-supported air column will allow for a more relaxed embouchure.

However, if "support" is concentrated upon too hard, it can lead to extra tension in the body. Proper support can lead to a better tone and high range; extra tension, on the other hand, can lead to a poor tone and trouble in the high range. Try to support without unnecessary tension.

"Huffing" the Notes--"Twa-Twa"

Occasionally you will run into performers who have a real problem with, for the lack of a clearer term, "huffing" notes--every note sounds like it has a small crescendo and decrescendo, especially a small crescendo on the beginning of each note. It is heard as a swelling on each note, a "twa-twa" sound that ruins every phrase. This style sounds bad--try to imagine a vocalist singing this way!--but the player often has no idea what they are doing, or why, because they are simply used to it.

What is usually happening is they are playing the beginning of every note softly to be sure that they don't make a loud mistake, but on a subconscious level--they are really unaware of the problem unless it is pointed out.

Often support is reduced at the beginning of each note. The best exercise for simple awareness of the problem is to take your right hand out of the bell, place it on your stomach, and play. It should not move around. If "huffing" is a problem, practice things like slow slurred scales and etudes until you are able to play with an absolutely even dynamic and a firm stomach.

Copyright John Q. Ericson.



The most often heard question is what do I practice? My answer is that you should first practice the fundamental note (the main note) of your Shofar. Practice this note until you have mastered it. You will find your embouchure "remembering" how to apply itself during the practice sessions. The next year, these muscles will also remember, once your embouchure is set. Practice sessions ought not to be longer than ten (10) minutes each. When you feel that your facial muscles are hurting is the time to stop. Your body is telling you to stop because there is too much stress on the undeveloped muscles. You do not want to injure your muscles.

After you have mastered the fundamental note, you next concentrate on the attack – the tonguing of the first note. This technique is achieved by practicing tongue control either with the tip of your tongue protruding through your lips and brings the tongue backwards or by the side of the tongue barely protruding from your lips. The attack is the single most important part of sounding the Shofar. The reason most players blow air instead of sound is that they have poor attacks. Then, when they draw air, they panic.

When you have mastered your attack, you now begin slurring by moving your lips into a smile position and back. Look in the mirror when you play the Shevarim, literally a sob. Many congregants have told that this mysterious sound really "get" to them. If so, you have played a big part in fulfilling the mitzvah of hearing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanh. (5Shulchan Aruch 586:3).

The next feature is to develop a staccato note. The teruah is a series of none staccato notes. This technique involves the fast playing of the note followed by a short pause – or none short note, followed by nine short pauses. You should start out slowly and then build up to faster short, staccato notes.

Many Shofar sounder lose count when they play teruah. To keep the count accurate, I play three sets of triplets or "1-2-3", "1-2-3 and "1-2-3."

The last note to practice is the Tekiah Gedolah, the long note at the end of the Shofar sounding. This note should be held as long as you can in practice as well as when you actually play. To achieve the best quality and loudness of this note, you must concentrate on the freshness of your embouchure, the amount of air breathed in and the support of your diaphragm. At first, this long note will seem difficult. However, twenty seconds will seem like an eternity when your final note is completed.

At ten minutes a day, for the month of Elul, 29 days before Rosh Hashanah, you will be a master Shofar sounder (Baal Tekiah).

The Day of Sounding the Shofar

There is normal anxiety when you go to bed the night before and the day of Rosh Hashanah for a Shofar player. This obviously is normal for someone who will play in front of an entire congregation, many of whom you know personally.

After dressing, I usually play the Shofar for the first round of: Tekiah, Shevarim, Shevarim-Teruah, and Tekiah. Then, I stop.

When I attend services that day, I keep the Shofar hidden from the congregation by resting the Shofar under my arm. In this way, I warm the Shofar to my body temperature, a brass instrumentalist technique. I also try to buzz into a pretend mouthpiece, composed of my thumb and forefinger simulated as a mouthpiece. In I can, I may go to a private place to warm up a little, although I find privacy less and less.

When you are ion the bimah, while the Torah and Haftorah are read, take several deep breaths to relax your body. I also will meditate by focusing my eyes on something in the synagogue . In one of synagogues where I play, I focus of a stain-glass window that depicts, two shofars.

Playing Problems

While many Shofar Sounders experience many problems, I treat the major complaints others have experienced and have asked me.

The main problem is mental. Being in front of entire congregation without really warming up to play an ancient instrument one day a year is daunting. The main remedy to achieve mental acuity. Remedies include learning/Playing Paralysis; Zen mastery (Mental Aspect of playing.); claming you nerves; and the power of suggestion (positive thinking).

Poor Attacks – have you ever hear d Shofar sounder blow in to the Shofar only to hear his air without any hint of a tone or note? This is a humiliating experience. Having experienced it myself, I have some suggestions:

  1. Act as if nothing went worrying and replay the note again (MB 585:x), suing another technique of lip placement, move the mouthpiece over your upper lip, change your attack by moving your tongue in another direction, or take a deep breath.

Weak Stuffy Tone

Weak, stuffy tone results from too little air used, too much pressure or a closed throat (when you play your voice box actually closes the back end of your mouth)

Bright Shrill Tone

A bright shrill tone is not a problem. The Shofar acts more like a trumpet announcing something special. The herald effect of a shrill tone satisfies this function.

A Changing Quality of Sound

A Changing Quality of Sound means that you have poor breath support, your is either too tongue arched or you have some other tonguing problem.

Slow Response

You blow but the note is not immediate in perfecting itself. If so, you are using too much mouthpiece pressure or you have poor breath support or your lips too tense.

Missed Notes

Panic When You Miss a Note

You should keep in mind that when your note comes out incorrectly, it is better to know what to do beforehand what adjustments to make so that you can readily adjust rather than panic (and believe me, everybody has experienced this). If your notes are not exact, ignore the mistake and go on to the next note. If you blow and no note comes forth, stop the attempt and place the mouthpiece on moist lips in a different place or on a different angle. If you persist, aim for the fundamental note and just sound it with no other accompanying notes. When your lips get acclimated to the vibrations, you can sound the other notes.

Poor Endurance

Many, if not most Shofar sounders have a problem of endurance, particularly when they sound 100 notes. (Mishah Berurah 586:23, Note 88) I personally have a p problem when I sound the Shofar at more than three services. The reasons for lack of endurance may be using too much mouthpiece pressure; not sufficient practice; or the mouthpiece too big or deep. (Clint 'Pops' McLaughlin)

Trumpet College home page.

1997 Email 'Pops'

Shofar Gurgles

If your Shofar gurgles, you have spittle in the horn. The best remedy is to use a coffee brush or an aquarium brush to remove the spittle. In fact, after each section of the service in which the Shofar is sounded, you should clean the Shofar to avoid a spittle problem.

Musicaliy of a Shofar

Arthur L. Finkle


Like the trumpet, a shofar has a mouthpiece that is shaped interest is in the quality of the tone and the when the horn is soft. (It is boiled first to extract the inside tissue) however; again there is none of the mathematical precision that is found in the trumpet. To find a shofar that has a nearly perfect relationship sheer luck (Albert Kramer, Secrets of a Shofar Blower, Washington, DC: GasillaŐs Press, 1971, pp. 3-12).

In selecting a shofar, it is critical to sound all the shofars that are available because the easier the relationship of your to the uniqueness of the shofar, the better. The primary interest is in the quality of the tone and the ease with which it is achieved. Almost any hollow tube can be made to produce a sound. But the sound desired is the true tone unique to the shofar. A perfect one cannot really be found because it rough method of construction results in many flaws.

Even with a shofar that seems to be satisfactory, the chances are that after it is blown for a moderate length of time, the warmth of the breath will warp it somewhat. The hope is that a shofar will expand and contract reasonably evenly in all directions with changes in temperature so as not to throw it out of tune. Of course, this is nothing new with musical instruments, whose pitch is always subject to correction. Since the custom is to conceal the shofar before it is played, what better method of concealment than to keep it near the body between the armpit and the chest and underneath the jacket, thereby concealing the shofar and keeping it at body temperature.


The care of the shofar is important for both assuring tonality and preserving the instrument itself. The shofar is conventionally cleansed with vinegar. But this is unsatisfactory. Although our ancestors probably thought that vinegar was a good antiseptic, it is not. Vinegar is a dilute solution of acetic acid. It is 95% water. Water has a hydration effect on the inside wall of the shofar. The hard material of a shofar is made essentially of a hard, globular keratin protein (related to hoof, hair, skin, claws, and fingernails). A manicurist, for example, softens fingernails by placing them in a dish of water. A similar softening effect takes place on the inside wall when vinegar is put into the shofar, and the soft horn walls deaden the sound.

The horn of the animal is made hollow by cleaning out the marrow, blood, and cords. It is usually not possible to clean it out completely. The stringy parts left behind throw off an offensive odor when the parts come into contact with vinegar. A much superior way of keeping the shofar clean is by the use of alcohol. Ordinary rubbing alcohol, either ethyl or isopropyl is satisfactory. Both are highly antiseptic and have the further advantage of drying quickly and completely which vinegar does not. You can obtain a very quick drying by placing the shofar, after running alcohol through it, over the outlet grille of a room air-conditioning unit.

To produce a sound on the shofar, it is necessary to vibrate the air inside of it by placing the horn against the corner of the mouth and by vibrating the lips, which induces vibrations of the air.

Air is an elastic medium in which waves can be reproduced by alternately compressing and rarefying it. Each lip should cover a part, preferably half, of the opening. If the lips are relaxed, they will vibrate and produce sound as the air passes through the horn. A minimum of 16 vibrations per second is necessary to produce sound audible to the human ear. The tauter the lips, the higher the sound pitch.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not a strain to blow the shofar. The effort required is relatively slight in vibrating the lips. In fact, perfecting a decent sound from a French horn or trumpet is much more difficult. In addition, there are no fingering techniques to learn. A shofar is like a primitive bugle.

Article I.               Non-Rabbinic Traditions

Non-Rabbinic Judaism

The Torah does not speak of a Rosh Hashanah, and if it had it would be the first day of the month of Nissan. The Torah specifies the first day of the Seventh month as Yom Teruah (Day of the Sounding), or Zichron Teruah (Remembering the Sounding). But the meaning of this term is unclear, because the word Teruah could mean a kind of trumpet (or Shofar) blast, but it could also mean a shout of rejoicing, not necessarily the blowing of a particular instrument. The only description of a celebration of the first day of the seventh month in the Bible is the one in Nehemiah 8:1-12 and there the blowing the Shofar is not mentioned. From the Book of Numbers and the Psalms we learn that the trumpet or Shofar were blown on Rosh-Chodesh, on the first showing of the new moon, which was the beginning of the Jewish month, In Rabbinic literature, the Mishnah discusses blowing the Shofar in the Herodean Temple and in peripheral synagogues on Rosh Hashanah. We do not know when this custom began, but it certainly became more significant as time went on and it acquired many symbols. (Best description of these appears in Isaac Arameh's treatise Akedat Yitzhak). The non-Rabbinic forms of Judaism accepted neither the idea of Rosh Hashanah nor the blowing of the Shofar.


The Samaritans modeled themselves after the Jewish People. However, the Jewish People kept its distance from this polyglot ethnic group. Indeed, when Ezra, the Prophet returned to Jerusalem from his post a court advisor to the Persians (423 BCE), he forbade the Samaritans from building the Temple because they were not legitimately Jewish. The Talmud records that, after the Assyrians in 722 BCE conquered Northern Israel, the Assyrian authorities transplanted populations from their other conquered territories to Northern Israel and vice-versa. Accordingly, although many of these immigrants intermarried with the few Jews that were left, the religion became syncretized with several other pagan religions, always a nemesis of the Jewish faith community. The Samaritans, however, do not recognize Rabbinic Judaism, like the Karaites of the 8th century, In principle, the idea that the first day of the Seventh [biblical) month is Rosh Hashanah is an innovation of Rabbinic Judaism as well as the custom of blowing the Shofar on that day. The Samaritans celebrate the day by prayers and reading from the Torah. There is no Shofar blowing. For them it is also the beginning of preparation for Yom Kippur.


The Karaites rejected the Rabbinic obligation of Shofar blowing. The most important authority on this is the great Karaite Hacham, Eliyahu Basheitzy of the fifteenth century. In his book Aderet Eliyahu (which is still considered the most important source of Karaite Halacha) he specifically denounced the Rabbinic ruling about Shofar blowing. According to Basheitzy, Teruah means noise of rejoicing which is executed by the human voice and not by any instrument.

Ethiopian Beita-Israel Tradition

It was not until 1844, when a missionary found a people observing Jewish ceremonies, going back to biblical injunctions that Ethiopian Jews were known to the Jewish world. Although there is many disputes about how this sect arose, the most common belief is that some Ethiopian people converted to Judaism when the Temple stood. However, after the destruction of the Temple, this sect was cut off form subsequent mainstream Jewry. Thus, Rabbinical Judaism was unknown to these Jews, most of whom lived in the poverty-stricken Gondar region in Northern Ethiopia. Most scholarship points to the conversion of these African people sometime before the destruction of the Second Temple. After the Romans sacked the Temple and dispersed the Jewish People form Jerusalem, communications apparently broke off from the Ethiopian Jewish community. Much of the religious tradition derives from the Hebrew Scripture, but not in Rabbinical sources. For example, during Passover, they sacrificed a sheep and the family feasted on it on the 14th day of Nissan. There is another school of thought that believes that the Beita -Israel tradition received much of its liturgy from Ethiopian Christian sources. When the first large group of Beita-Israel arrived in Israel, the Jewish Rabbinical courts insisted that all males be re-circumcised evidence that they were Jews, under the Rabbinical tradition. To this injunction, the Ethiopians objected. Nevertheless, they subsequently became involved in the Sephardic ritual community. As to the Ethiopian Beita-Israel tradition. The first day of the seventh month is called "berhan sharaqa" which means "the light appeared" (which is a commemoration of the birth of the world) and "tazkara Abraham", the commemoration of Abraham, relating to the binding of Isaac. About two generations ago they started calling it "re-esha awda amat," the head of the year. We do not know when they started to relate this day to the birth of the world or to the binding of Isaac. Their old customs do not testify to either. Thus for example their reading from the Orit ( the Ge'ez Bible) on this day does not include Genesis 1 or the story of the Akedah. It seems that the associations came from the influence of Jewish Rabbinic sources with which Beita-Israel came in contact from the late 19th century on. From some testimonies, we know that at one point they adopted the custom of blowing the ram's horn in commemoration of the binding of Isaac. But this custom fell soon into disuse and no Ethiopian community practiced it until it was re-introduced in Israel by the Rabbinic authorities of the State (See Kay Kaufman Shelemay, "Music, Ritual and Falasha History," (Michigan State University, 1986).


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Arban, Cornet method (Hawkes) [n.p.] c1908.

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Adam Carse, Musical Wind Instruments, NY: DaCapo Press, 1965

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Encyclopždia Britannica, Inc., The English Universities Press, London 1973.

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Farkas, Philip, The art of French horn playing, [n.p. n.d.]

Farkas, Philip, The art of brass playing; a treatise on the formation and use of the brass player's embouchure, Bloomington, Ind., Brass Publications [1962]

Goldstein, E. Bruce: Sensation and Perception: Wadsworth Pub. Co. 3rd ed.: 1989

Montgomery, Elizabeth, The Story Behind Musical Instruments, New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1953

Olsen, Harry F., Music, Physics and Engineering: Dover Publications, Inc. N.Y., 2nd ed.: 1967.

Rabbeinu Yisroel Meir Ha-Cohen (The Chafetz Chaim), Mishnah Berurah: Laws of Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur, Sections 581 - 624, R. Aviel Orenstein, ed., Jerusalem: Philip Feldheim Ltd., 1999

Rambam, Hilchos Shofar

Rigden, John S.: Physics and the Sound of Music: J. Wiley 2nd ed.: 1985

Roederer, Juan: Introduction to the Physics and Psychophysics of Music: Stevens, S.S. & Warshofsky, Fred. Sound and Hearing: Time-Life Science Library: 1980

Lawrence C. Wit, "Keratin," World Book Online Americas Edition, http://www.worldbookonline.com/wbol/wbAuth/na/ar/fs/ar298005.htm, July 15, 2000

Whitener, Scott, A complete guide to brass: instruments and techniques / Scott Whitener 2nd ed., New York: Schirmer Books, c1997.

Arthur L. Finkle, The Shofar Sounders' Reference Manual, Los Angeles: Torah Aura Productions, 1993.

Wood, A: The Physics of Music: Methuen London 6th ed., 1962

Michael R. Leavitt wrote:

Dear Rabbi,

I just got a beautiful Shofar from a friend returning from Israel. It sounds great, but it has one problem. It smells. But really bad. There were probably some marrow pieces left inside. My question is simple: ŇHow do you clean a Shofar?


Dear Michael R. Leavitt,

To answer your question, my wife spoke to Mrs. Sarah Glaser, author of Life Saver! - The Jewish Homemaker's Survival Kit (Targum Press/Feldheim ). She recommends vinegar or baking soda for removing odors. Pour synthetic vinegar into the Shofar. Or dissolve baking soda in water, and pour into the Shofar. Rinse and repeat. If necessary, let sit overnight in the vinegar/baking soda solution.

Eliminating a strong odor is important, because such an odor might lessen the honor of the mitzvah, violating the principle that "mitzvot should not be contemptible in your eyes." And if the odor is as bad as you say, it's forbidden to say a blessing in its presence.

But remember, the inside of the Shofar needn't compete with perfumes such as Eau d'Elegance or Chanel. Most Shofars retain a slight, lingering reminiscence of their humble origin, the ram.

When Isaac blessed Jacob, Isaac said, 'My son's fragrance is like the fragrance of the field blessed by Hashem.' Of course, Jacob was wearing animal skins on his hands and neck. Perhaps the power of Jacob's mitzvah turned a bad smell into a good one. May Hashem accept our mitzvah of Shofar this year, and may all our deeds be sweet-smelling!



Ľ           Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 79:8-9

Ľ           Mishna Berurah 79:29, 31 and 586:90

Ľ           Bereishit 27:27,



I agree with all EXCEPT using vinegar unless diluted.  I suggest soaking the new Shofar in either diluted vinegar (weak acid) or weak base (soapy warm water) for 20 minutes.  Allow it to dry.


If it still has an acrid smell, use some Arm and Hammer Baking soda for 20 minutes.


To clean ordinarily, use some ethyl alcohol and dry with a blow dryer.


Let me know how you make out.




Art Finkle

Decorating the Shofar

By Rav Moshe Taragin


The mishna (Rosh Ha-shana 26b) describes the unique ceremony of blowing the shofar in the Mikdash (Temple). Although the mitzva of shofar applies everywhere, it has a special relevance to the Mikdash. Based upon the verse, "With trumpets (chatzotzrot) and the voice of shofar, make noise before God the King" (Tehillim 98:6), the mishna determines that when the shofar was blown in the Mikdash on Rosh Ha-shana it was accompanied by two trumpets. In addition, the shofar used in the Mikdash was covered with gold to make the process more aesthetic. Disturbed by this scenario, the gemara considers whether a shofar may be plated with any foreign material. This shiur will examine the various concerns the gemara raises regarding these plates or coverings.

The gemara (Rosh Ha-shana 27a) questions the mishna by citing a source disqualifying a shofar whose mouth is covered with gold. To solve this contradiction, the gemara (commentary and additional caselaw subsequent to the Mishnah) claims that the mishna (describing the shofar in the Mikdash) refers to a gold plate covering an area other than where the shofar-blower places his mouth. The beraita (rabinnic ruling not in the Mishna) which prohibited a gold covering referred to gold placed in the area where the mouth touches the shofar. However, the gemara provides no reason to differentiate between these two situations.


To complicate matters further, an ensuing gemara (27b) cites a beraita that any gold covering the inner area of the shofar invalidates the entire shofar. If, however, the gold covers the outside area of the shofar, the shofar may still be used, as long as the gold doesn't alter the sound emitting from the shofar. This gemara seems to provide a basis for its ruling - namely, the altering effect of the gold upon the sound. Presumably, ANY gold covering the inner surface area will affect the sound and, hence, such a scenario is completely unacceptable. By contrast, gold on the outside of the shofar may not influence the sound and hence cannot be absolutely rejected. Its impact upon the sound must first be gauged, and only if such impact is determined can the shofar be invalidated.

See #3, 8 and 11.


What remains unclear is the exact relationship between these two statements. If the gemara (27b) allows gold covering the outside (as long as the sound remains unchanged), then to what scenario does the gemara (27a) refer when it allows gold to cover an area where the mouth doesn't touch? Doesn't this gemara refer to the outside surface, as well? If so, the two gemarot appear to be redundant!


The Rishonim (first interpreters of the Talmud) deal with these issues in two basic ways. Tosafot (12th-13th centuries) claim that indeed these two gemarot, which allow gold "where the mouth doesn't blow" (27a) and gold "on the outside of the shofar which doesn't affect the sound" (27b) are essentially identical. While Tosafot ponder why the gemara might have restated the same halakha, the Rosh provides a reason. Any gold on the outside surface which doesn't alter the sound is deemed by the gemara (27b) to be valid. Gold covering the lower end of the shofar (near but not directly where the mouth makes contact) might have raised a different problem – "shofar be-tokh shofar," one shofar inside another. The gemara (27b) disqualifies one from blowing two shofarot simultaneously. We might have therefore disqualified SPECIFICALLY a shofar plated with gold near its mouthpiece for this reason. Hence, the gemara felt compelled to relate to this scenario directly and assure us that as long as outside plates do not affect the sound, the shofar may be blown - no matter how close to the mouthpiece the outside plate is.


This concern suggested by the Rosh (15th century commentator) as the the gemara's initial presumption, highlights an interesting notion surrounding the structure of the shofar. Can we deconstruct the shofar into segments and possibly target the essential part in distinction from the secondary unit? Or do we view the shofar as one undifferentiated instrument?


The gemara itself (27b) instigates this question when it discusses the case of a shofar which has split. If the distance from the mouthpiece to the split is larger than the minimum measure of a shofar, the entire shofar may be used. Does this gemara suggest that the lower part of the shofar is the primary segment, and if the split appears beyond this section the shofar can be validated? Or does the gemara merely intend that the part of the shofar beyond the split is considered as halakhically detached (due to the split), effectively reducing the shofar to a miniature but integrated and undifferentiated shofar? Rashi assumes the second approach. The Ittur, however, extended this concept to other flaws which potentially may disqualify a shofar (such as a hole stopped up with a foreign substance), suggesting that he did indeed envision a shofar as divisible into sections.


The idea we considered earlier – namely, that any gold placed specifically on the bottom part of the shofar (even if it did not affect the sound) would render the shofar a "double shofar" - suggests the Ittur's (legal postulation) anatomy of a shofar. By rejecting this notion (according to the Rosh), does the gemara mean to dismiss the Ittur's position? Or does the gemara negate this possibility for another reason (perhaps a swath of gold cannot qualify as a shofar)?


The Ramban (15th century) develops a different strategy for explaining the two gemarot. The discussion on 27b centers solely around the issue of affecting the sound. Any inner gold will change the sound and is therefore invalid, while gold plating on the outside must be checked for this effect. The gemara (27a) which distinguished between gold on the mouthpiece and away from the mouthpiece was concerned with a different issue. Aside from the impact upon the sound, there cannot be a chatzitza (buffer) between the person's mouth and the shofar. Gold on the outside of the shofar – near the mouthpiece - could potentially prevent the mouth of the blower from touching the shofar. From this, the Ramban infers that the blower must blow directly into the shofar. He cannot blow into the air in the direction of the shofar, indirectly causing a sound to emit. The two gemarot were in effect addressing completely different halakhic issues - changes in sound, and chatzitzot.


This additional provision of chatzitza arouses much interest among the Rishonim. The Meiri raises an interesting question from a gemara (Sukka 34) regarding the definition of chatzitza. The gemara considers placing a golden wreath around the arba minim (lulav etc.) for decoration. Pressured to defend against the problem of chatzitza (i.e., the gold band lying between a person's hand and the arba minim), the gemara responds (at least according to Rava) that anything meant to enhance a mitzva cannot be considered a chatzitza. Based on this yardstick, a gold plate decorating the shofar should also not be considered a chatzitza!


There are two basic approaches to solving this question. One view attempts to differentiate between the gemara in Sukka, which doesn't regard ornamental arba minim binders as chatzitza, and the Ramban, who appears to define a gold decoration lying between the mouth and the shofar as chatzitza. A second strategy (presented by the Avnei Nezer, #434) claims that the Ramban does not disqualify the gold because of chatzitza (since it is ornamental). Even items which do not qualify as chatzitza might still prevent actual physical contact and invalidate situations which call for this contact. For example, the gemara (Bekhorot 9b) does not regard a fetus as a chatzitza between the twin fetus and the mother's womb (for purposes of sanctity of the firstborn), since "min be-mino eino chotzetz" (only foreign items are deemed chatzitza). Commenting upon this gemara, the Ramban still insists that although no chatzitza exists, we cannot deny that one fetus was prevented from full contact with the mother's womb by the other fetus, hence inhibiting the establishment of sanctity of the firstborn. In a similar vein, we cannot view the gold plate as a chatzitza since it decorates the shofar. However, the blower's mouth hasn't fully touched the shofar if it is separated by the gold. As such, the blowing is invalid.


The Avnei Nezer does not clarify exactly why such contact between blower's mouth and the shofar is necessary. Contact was crucial between womb and fetus in order to install sanctity of the firstborn, but what role does contact between mouth and shofar play? What function does shofar perform which might necessitate direct contact between a person's mouth and the shofar? This raises the question of the connection between shofar and prayer, which is the subject of other VBM shiurim.


... Decorating the Shofar. By Rav Moshe Taragin. The mishna (Rosh Ha-shana 26b) describes the unique ceremony of blowing the shofar in the Mikdash (Temple). ...
www.vbm-torah.org/roshandyk/rh63-mt.htm. Accessed June 14, 2004


A shofar may also not be painted in colors. Nevertheless, the shofar may  be decorated by carving into the keratin itself so long as it does not substantially change its sound., but it may be carved with artistic designs (Shulchan Aruch, Orah Hayyim, 586, 17).


Arthur L. Finkle

Many large grazing animals, the ones that have cloven hoofs and chew their cud, are armed with either horns or antlers. These weapons are used for defense against predators or dominance duels between males for possession of a few favored females. Both horns and antlers are borne on the head and have similar uses, they are structurally different. 
A Shofar may be created from the horn of any kosher animal (ritually slaughtered; cloven hoof; and chews a cud. Mishnah RH 1:1).  In biological classification, these animals are:

á      Kingdom: Animalia

á      Phylum: Chordata

á      Subphylum: Vertebrata

á      Class: Mammalia

á      Order: Artiodactyla

á      Family: Bovidae


Artiodactyls are paraxonic, that is, the plane of symmetry of each foot passes between the third and fourth digits. (cloven hoof). In all species the number of digits is reduced at least by the loss of the first digit, and the second and fifth digits are small in many. The third and fourth digits, however, remain large and bear weight in all artiodactyls.
Artiodactyls stand in contrast to the "odd-toed ungulates," the Perissodactyla, where the plane of symmetry runs down the third toe. The most extreme toe reduction appears in antelope and deer, which have just two functional (weight-bearing) digits on each foot.
Most artiodactyls have modified stomachs, the extreme case being that of groups such as antelope and deer, which have distinctive, four-chambered stomachs. This arrangement appears to be an adaptation that allows members of these groups to make use of microorganisms to decompose cellulose into digestible components.
Artiodactyls are usually divided into several suborders:
á           Suiformes  These animals do not ruminate (chew their cud), and their stomachs may be simple and one-chambered or have up to three chambers.  
á           Tylopoda contains a single living family, the Camelidae. Modern tylopods have a 3-chambered, ruminating stomach. Their third and fourth metapodials are fused near the body but separate distally, forming a Y-shaped cannon bone.

á      Ruminantia. This last suborder includes the families Tragulidae, Giraffidae, Cervidae, Moschidae, Antilocapridae, and Bovidae.  This suborder is characterized by a series of traits including missing upper incisors, often (but not always) reduced or absent upper canines, selenodont cheek teeth, a 3 or 4-chambered stomach, and third and fourth metapodials usually partially or completely fused.

The bovids include such diverse forms as gazelles, African antelope, buffalo, mountain goats, and domesticated species such as cattle, sheep, and goats. The family includes 137 species in 45 genera, and its members range through Africa, much of Europe and Asia, and North America. Modern bovids are most diverse by far, however, in Africa.

All bovids have a four-chambered stomach and digest cellulose through bacterial fermentation.

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Animalia.html. Accessed 6/14/04

Horns, in contrast to antlers, are unbranched. They are hollow horny 
sheaths enclosing pointed bony cores that arise from the front of the 
skull. These sheaths are made of keratin, the same substance as our 
fingernails. They continue to grow throughout the life of the animal 
and are never shed. Horns are commonly found in both sexes of a 
species and are always in pairs. The unicorn, that one-horned creature pictured in the British royal coat of arms is strictly mythological.
Antlers are the crowning glory of the males of the deer family. In this 
continent they are borne by the bull moose, the bull elk or wapiti, and the bucks of the whitetail, blacktail and mule deer. Caribou and reindeer live in the far North and both sexes have antlers.


Amazingly, the solid bony antlers of all these are shed each year. For 
example, the whitetail buck drops his in midwinter or early spring. 
Soon, a new pair begins to form as furry knobs that rapidly expand 
into the curving and branching shape of the mature structures. During 
this growth period, the antlers are soft, covered with a velvety skin, 
have a rich blood supply, and are quite sensitive. By late summer the 
blood supply stops and the "velvet" begins to dry up and peel off. Then his antlers harden into bone which he polishes by rubbing against trees and branches -- probably because they itch.
Beginning with prehistoric humans, horns and antlers have had many 
uses. Eskimos shaped spoons and dippers from musk ox horns. Indians 
made hunting bows from the bighorn, garden tools from elk antlers, 
and spear points from deer. Powder horns for muzzle-loading guns 
came from cows and the ancient shofar, or ram's horn, is still blown in Jewish religious rites. 

http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/natbltn/700-799/nb730.htm. Accessed June 14,2004.



Shofar as Music

The Horn Section

You are probably familiar with musical instruments called "horns." In a band or orchestra, the horns are made out of brass, have a small hole at one end that you blow into, and a large flared bell at the other end. In between is a long tube. Modern orchestral horns are the descendants of earlier instruments made from real animal horns. The shofar, usually made from a ram's horn, is still used today in Jewish religious ceremonies.

The instrument is now almost never used outside these times, though has been seen in western classical music on a limited number of occasions. The best known example is to be found in Edward Elgar's oratorio The Apostles, although an instrument such as the flugelhorn usually plays the part instead of an actual shofar.



Jewish Daily Forward

SEPTEMBER 6, 2002   

Article II.             When the Ram's Horn Sounds

(a)    From Edward Elgar, Who Announced Daybreak Over the Temple in an Oratorio, to Leonard Bernstein, Who Began 'West Side Story' With a Familiar Blast, Composers Have Used the Shofar To Evoke the Majestic and the Mystical


To adapt the famous categorization of Claude Levi-Strauss, if such wind instruments as clarinets and cornets are "cooked," the shofar is definitely "raw." The question arises: Why has this wild horn, the only biblical instrument still in use, come to represent so much to Jews, especially in the holiday season we are entering?

According to tradition, the shofar is the closest thing to the voice of God. Almost every time the Jewish or Christian Bibles mention a trumpet or horn, it means the shofar. Whether it is at the giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses, Gabriel blowing the last trumpet, the raising of the dead or the tuba mirum (wondrous trumpet) of the Catholic mass — all are referring to the shofar. Composers throughout history have vied to conjure the magic of the biblical shofar, but most have done so fancifully, perhaps the most spectacular being by the 19th-century atheist and genius Hector Berlioz, who dreamed up four spatially separated brass bands for the unforgettably rousing Dies Irae of his "Requiem Mass" to illustrate what the shofars at the end of the world would sound like. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, the sweetly singing tuba mirum of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Requiem," which seems to have been equally inspired by the call of the wood thrush.

Other composers have been more literal in invoking the shofar. Without doubt the most famous music inspired by the call of the shofar is Leonard Bernstein's masterpiece, "West Side Story." The very first notes of the introduction are nothing but a full-throated orchestral evocation of the sound of the shofar. And this theme is the musical kernel from which Bernstein derived most of the music in this score. In the earliest version, the musical was called "East Side Story" and the female lead was not the Puerto Rican immigrant Maria, but rather a Jewish girl who falls in love with an Italian Catholic boy in Greenwich Village. It was this interfaith conflict that informed the thematic development of the score. Even though the ethnic elements of the plot were changed, the original inspiration in the music remains embedded throughout. But perhaps Maria was secretly a Marrano?

It's not just Jewish composers who've been inspired by the sound of the shofar. Surprisingly, the Edwardian English composer Sir Edward Elgar — yes, the one famous for the "Pomp and Circumstance March" that everyone knows from graduation ceremonies — was inspired by the mystical vision of the shofar sounding to announce the daybreak over the temple in Jerusalem in his oratorio "The Apostles."

Although there were many composers who imitated the sound or the idea of the shofar in their music, there were very few who had included actual shofars in their compositions when I started to do so almost two decades ago. Now there are many, and currently we're seeing a renaissance of interest in the musical possibilities of this extraordinary and evocative instrument from composers as diverse as Alvin Curran (shofar and electronics) to John Zorn ("downtown" shofar) and John Duffy (shofar on the "Heritage" soundtrack).

In synagogues, there are two divergent traditions of shofar calls: the Ashkenazi (German), which is dramatic and outward, and the Sephardi (Spanish-Portuguese), which is more tremulous and inward. It is possible that the patterns of shofar calls are derived from military trumpet calls, which are described in several ancient texts, including one of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Te'kiah would correspond to "assemble," Sh'vorim to "advance," T'ruah (described as "like raindrops") to "pursue" and Te'kiah G'dolah as "regroup." (It should be noted, though, that Plutarch, traveling in the Nile delta, sarcastically described hearing a debased version of these calls used for traffic control that sounded to him "like donkeys.")

Historically, the sound of shofar has always been treated as something in a category by itself — not quite music, but a sound endowed with mystical and magical powers.

My own research has linked everyone's favorite fantastical animal, the unicorn, to the shofar. The Bible specifically says that when the messiah comes, the "big" shofar (shofar ha-gadol) will sound. This led Maimonides, who was a medical doctor as well as philosopher, to speculate that since the left side of animals is always slightly smaller than the right only the right horn should be used for a shofar. And in medieval times Jews followed this thinking and were careful to use only the right horn for their shofars.

Unicorn or ram, the shofar-bearing animal is one of the most powerful symbols in the monotheistic traditions. The most famous ram of the Bible is the one sacrificed by Abraham in place of his beloved son Isaac, which to many symbolizes the archetypal movement of civilization from human to animal sacrifice. The sound of the shofar is certainly a convincing reminder of those roots.

At the time of the temple in Jerusalem, a full orchestra — including winds, brass, strings and percussion — performed. All were played by musicians, but only priests were entitled to play the ram's horn, underscoring the shofar's ambiguity: Is it music, or something else?

Of all of the instruments used in the Temple, only the shofar survives today. In this season of remembrance and introspection, the call of the shofar focuses our minds on what is essential, what is eternal. If we are asking who will live and who will die, who will be raised up and who will be cast down, it is a sound that brings us up short, with no possibility of arrogant response. No one can be indifferent to its rude wail. Of how many other musical devices can this be said?

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Raphael Mostel has composed 18 works for shofar since 1985, and has broadcast an ongoing series of reports on the instrument on WNYC and National Public Radio. He was the first composer to sound the shofar at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, for which he was commissioned by WNYC-FM to help celebrate the radio station's 50th anniversary in 1994.

http://www.mostel.com. Accessed June 14, 2004



"The Alarm" - A parable by the Maggid of Dubnow
"The Shofar" by I. L. Peretz

"The Alarm"

Shofar Blown For War

A parable by the illustrious story teller, the Maggid of Dubnow

(condensed from the story by I. L. Peretz)

The Shofar is more than just the
"beating of drums."

A native villager, born and reared in an obscure rural environment, came to a big city for the first time and obtained lodging at an inn. Awakened in the middle of the night by the loud beating of drums, he inquired drowsily, "What's this all about?" Informed that a fire had broken out and that the drum beating was the city's fire alarm, he turned over and went back to sleep.

On his return home he reported to the village authorities: "They have a wonderful system in the big city; when a fire breaks out the people beat their drums and before long the fire burns out." All excited, they ordered a supply of drums and distributed them to the population.

When, some time later, a fire broke out, there was a deafening explosion of beating of drums, and while the people waited expectantly for the flames to subside, a number of their homes burned to the ground.

A sophisticated visitor passing through that village, when told the reason for the ear-splitting din, derided the simplistic native: "Idiots! Do you think a fire can be put out by beating drums? They only sound an alarm for the people to wake up and take measure to extinguish the fire."

Said the Maggid of Dubno, this story applies to those of us who believe that beating the breast during the Al Chet (confessional), raising our voices during worship, and blowing the shofar, will put out the fires of sin and evil that burn in us.

They are, the Maggid remarked, only an alarm, a warning to wake us up in order to resort to soul searching), so that we may merit the favor of God. The Maggid probably had in mind Maimonides' interpretation of the shofar sounds: "Awake all you who sleep, rouse yourselves all you who slumber and search your deeds and repent; remember your Creator."

"The Shofar"
by I. L. Peretz

Reb Simeon had a special shofar: It even fought the Satan!

"You must have something precious under your arm, Reb Simeon! You press it to your breast with a trembling hand, and your old eyes shine with joy!"

"Yes!" says Reb Simeon, "it's my shofar, my festival shofar!"

"Festival shofar?"

"Yes! You see, it's my custom on an ordinary weekday in Elul to blow on an ordinary shofar. This one is for the festival, a beautiful, precious shofar."

He took it out from under his arm and eyed it fondly. A little shofar, ash-gray, thin, but lovely to look at, bent like every other shofar, but bent charmingly, like a child's attractive waywardness. He stroked it with quivering fingers, lifted it to his beard and fondled it against the long, fine silver hair. And both holinesses mingled - the holy ash-gray shofar and the holy silver beard. The old eyes lightened up with childlike happiness. They looked so youthful!


"You love this shofar!"

"Like my life! I love blowing the shofar. My father, peace to his memory, was a farmer. We lived in the village, and - I was a boy - I envied the shepherd with his pipe. He piped, and at the sound the sheep gathered round him, lay down round him and looked into his eyes. But a shofar is something higher - it gathers souls, Jewish Mount Sinai souls! They listen! I love blowing the shofar!

"Not always'" he corrected himself. "Not the tekiah gedolah on Yom Kippur! I put the shofar to my lips, and already half the congregation lies prostrate on the floor, under the benches. I look round, and it is like a field after a storm, three-quarters of the community bowed to the ground - and there is the tekiah gedolah still to come! It isn't right!

"And blowing the shofar all through Elul isn't the same thing! Why? It's a weekday congregation, small and scattered, one in, one out. The market keeps breaking in through the open windows. The women stallholders shout their wares; the peasants talk loudly. The youngsters play in the synagogue courtyard. It's terribly confusing! It's not right!

"Rosh Hashanah is utterly different! The whole congregation stands, wrapped in their tallitot! They are the sons of kings! They sway like the green stalks in the blessed fields, and there is a rustling as in a forest or like the rushing of a stream."


"You can't get the village out of your mind, Reb Simeon...?

"In the holy synagogue, when the congregation sways and shakes, I see the old good kindly forest before my eyes, and I hear the old good kindly stream. It roars louder and louder till it bursts out like a flame, like a sea of fire, and breaks through the walls, and rises up and breaks through the ceiling - it goes out into the world, up to heaven, this flame, this burning, boiling psalm of praise!

"Then suddenly it stops! It disappears! Everything is quiet, utterly quiet! The congregation holds its breath. You hear the candles on the reading desk burning and hissing in the holy heat.

"The congregation is waiting for my prayer, for my blessing! I put the shofar to my lips. The dayyan calls out the notes, and I sound the shofar - tekiah, shevarim, teruah! Sounds clear as water, silver sounds, pure."

His eyes light up with childlike happiness.

"You're wonderful, Reb Simeon, at your age!"

"Yes, he says, "ordinarily I am a fly. But when I sound the shofar, I soar!"

"Like an eagle! You are like a lion!"

"Yes, indeed, like an eagle, like a lion!"

"And you always get the right note?"

"Always? No, not always! Sometimes there are obstacles..."


"I'll give you an instance: Satan come along, and I start coughing. An old cough. I've had it for forty years. It dates back to Tashlikh that year. The police chief had issued an order not to throw any Jewish crumbs in the stream.. "When you are in Jerusalem," he said, " you can do what you like! Not here!"

"Well now, if the police chief says no, we've go to find a way of getting round it. So each of us goes to the stream separately, one by one, but we all meet there, all together. If we are seen, we run! We get hot running, and we cool off in the water of the mikveh. With my poor constitution, I got pneumonia! Thank G-d, I got over it, but it left me with this cough, as a reminder. Once it catches me, it tears me to bits. And just then it caught me, immediately after the blessing!

"What could I do! The shofar trembled in my hand, like a fish out of water, and wouldn't go to my lips! When it finally did it knocked against my teeth! In those days I still had my teeth...!


"Something much worse happened a few years before that! I was sounding shevarim. I tell you it was a real broken shevarim, a lot of loud whistling in the street, shouting, bells ringing! The pogromists arrived in the marketplace! G-d in heaven, what a panic there was! The people tried to rush out, to escape. They ran to the doors, to the windows! The old rabbi, blessings on his memory, was still alive. A short, thin little man – but he was a rabbi!

"He jumped up on a chair, and cried: "Stay, where you are!" and they all stayed where they were.

"Shut all the doors and windows!" It was done. It made the synagogue pitch black! The few candles on the reading desk only threw black shadows! We were all terror-stricken! But not the rabbi! "Sound the shofar!" he cried.

"I sounded the shofar! I put my whole soul into the tekiot!"

"I may have conquered Satan," he added, smiling ruefully, "but not the pogromists! They laid the town in ruins!

"Who can conquer them? Unless it is the shofar of Messiah!"

(Translated by Joseph Leftwich)


Rabbi Greenberg's
Rosh HaShanah Sermon


Rabbi C. Michelle Greenberg
Temple Sinai / Denver

Rosh HaShanah
September 7, 2001 / 5763

Ways of Seeing

Shofar heard differently by all of us

Each year the shofar is blown to herald the New Year. With a piercing call it speaks to the whole community. It tells us to prepare for a new time, to review ourselves, to make plans for the coming year. It speaks to us in the languages that we speak.

Moses - hears it with a lisp

Moses did not want to be a prophet. As the voice of God, how could he inspire fear and awe with the lisp that had plagued him since . . . . Despite his pleas to be overlooked, God chose this flawed man to speak to the people. So, when the shofar first blew at Sinai, Moses heard it sing with a lisp. To him, the true voice of God heralded great moments with the very language that Moses spoke. God and Moses spoke the same language.

Isaac - cannot see it and does not know when he will hear the blast

Isaac was blind. His sight diminished since the tears he sobbed at his fatherŐs betrayal at Mount Moriah.

Hannah - hears nothing but the gasps as it vibrates in the air

We each hear the Shofar according to our language, our way of perceiving the world

Toledot   [1]

The holiness of Isaac and Abraham lies in their not seeing themselves according to their own eyes, rather, according to the merit of the other

How does it affect how we listen and hear the words our families speak to us?

Placing what is holy and separate in relationship

Are one in GodŐs holiness, but the honor accorded one another through naming shows the holiness each sees reflected in the other party

Each of us has a place, a special niche carved by our own strength and essence. Each of us has a place in which we find our special way.

The Baal Shem Tov explains elohei avraham, elohei yitzchak, elohei yaakov. For each of our ancestors there is a specific relationship with God different from that of the others. Each was set apart through the power of his own eetzel, solitude and essence.   [2]

We perceive the world differently. We see it through the lenses of our skills and shortcomings. The model of the shofar is that each of us is deserving of language that we understand. In our classrooms, in our homes, we are obligated to find ways of speaking that encourage growth, not limit opportunity.

God speaks in every language. We too, must honor the unique spark of each person by learning to do so as well.

[1]   Itturay Torah, volume 1, page 204b
[2]   Itturay Torah, volume 1, page 87e

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Arthur L. Finkle

Shofar Sounding is an arcane skill. There generally is no formal training because sounding is a once a year occurrence. Usually, someone who has played a brass instrument is selected (conned?) to sound the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The Shofar Sounders WebPage intends to approach Shofar Sounding in a scientific and respectfully religious manner. Although not much has been written about the Shofar, I have attempted to fill in the gaps.

Three years of feedback presents the exploration of the topics below.

The question most often asked:  How to Get the Odor Out of the Shofar !!!

Physical Properties

The Arts



Shofar Decoration

Shofar in Jewish Music

Different ways of Hearing the Shofar

Folk Tales of the Shofar

Physical Properties of Antlers and Horns

Shofar in Early Jewish Art















You can purchase an updated manual, Easy Guide to Shofar Sounding for only $3.95 at Torah Aura

For Questions, Comments or Concerns, Contact Me



Arthur L. Finkle

Shofar Sounding is an arcane skill. There generally is no formal training because sounding is a once a year occurrence. Usually, someone who has played a brass instrument is selected (conned?) to sound the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

The Shofar WebPage intends to approach Shofar Sounding in a scientific and respectfully religious manner. Although not much has been written about the Shofar, I have attempted to fill in the gaps.

For example, in my book, I cite:


Since I wrote the Shofar Sounders Reference Manual, I have written on such topics as:

Three years of viewer questions presents the exploration of the topics below.

You can purchase an updated manual, Easy Guide to Shofar Sounding for only $3.95 at Torah Aura


For Questions, Comments or Concerns, Contact Me

Arthur L. Finkle, is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Rutgers University and earned a MGA degree from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania .

He has been the Baal Tekiah of Har Sinai Temple for more than 30-years as well as for the Greenwood House of the Jewish Aged for 25-years. Supervised by R. Jack Pianko, Yeshiva University , 1948, Mr. Finkle has written two Judaica Books and more than 50 articles.

Mr. Finkle served as Educator for Congregation Beth Chaim (Princeton Junction, NJ) for twenty years and as Educator for Har Sinai Hebrew Congregation ( Trenton , NJ ) for six years.

He has officiated in various capacities in the Jewish community including Continuing Education Chairman and Newsletter Editor for the New Jersey-West Hudson Region of the UAHC. A certified Reform Jewish Educator as granted by the Hebrew Union College and the National Association of Temple Educators, he has served as a member of the National UAHC Committee on Inter-religious Affairs (as well as chairman of its curriculum subcommittee).

He is also a consultant to the Roman Catholic Diocese in Trenton , NJ . In addition, he is a member of the National (UAHC) Task Force on Jewish Ethics.

He appears in Who's Who In American Government, 1979-1980; Who's Who In American Education, 1994-1995 and 1995-1996; International Men of Achievement, 1995; and International Leaders 5000, 1996; International Leaders of Achievement, 1997; International Men of Achievement, 1995 and 1996; International WhoŐs Who of Twentieth Century Achievement, 1998 and 1999; Leading Intellectuals of the World, 1999; Strathmore's WhoŐs Who, 2001; and International Intellectuals, 2001