Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Blow, Gabriel, Blow - Blow that Shofar
Yesterday and today were the beginning of the new year, Rosh Hashana, referred to in the Torah as "Yom Teru'a" (a day of shofar blowing). (Numbers 29:1)
The blast of the shofar is meant to awaken the Jewish people to repentance, and declare to the world the reaffirmation of G-d as King of the Universe.
Not Just Any Horn
Jews all over the world ushered in the new year by listening to 100 sounds of the shofar, most commonly a ram's horn. But a shofar can be the horn of any animal whose horn can be hollowed out. Antlers of solid bone, or the horn of a cow are not valid.
Jews of European decent usually blow the short Nike symbol-type horn, while Jews of Arabic or Spanish countries usually blow the low twisted shofarot.
The shofar craftsman heats the shofar, hollows the horn, makes a whole in the tip and then twists it back into shape, shines it up, tests its blow-ability and readies it for market.
My family visited a very unique shofar manufacturer, Kol Shofar, on the Golan Heights. The owner of the factory, Shimon Kinan, travels all over the world to gather horns of every sort in order to make all types of shofarot (horn pipes).
Of course, Shimon makes thousands of the traditional ram's horns, but he's also accumulated horns of every sort from across the globe. Not all of them are suitable for halachic (regulation) shofar blowing.
Each shofar blast reminds us of a myriad of events in Jewish history (past and future): the ram that was sacrificed in place of Isaac, after his father bound him on the altar on Mount Moriah (Genesis 22); the Jewish nation's acceptance of the Torah at Mount Sinai, when "the sound of the shofar continually increased and was very great." (Exodus 19:19); the words of the prophets whose admonitions are like the call of the shofar; the ingathering of the exiles, which will be accompanied by the blast of a shofar (Isaiah 27:13); the resurrection of the dead, which will also be accompanied by the sounding of the shofar (Isaiah 18:3).
The Sounds of the Shofar
The congregation stands silently as the shofar blower does his best to sound a long combination of notes, made up of tekiah, teruah, and shevarim, each with their specific type of blasts. Even children at play run to the door of the synagogue to hear the sounds of the shofar.
It is a moment for which everyone waits an entire year, and the wait is rewarded with a mesmerizing sound that reverberates to one's very soul.
"Amid thunder and lightning You were revealed to them and with the sound of shofar You appeared to them...the sound of the shofar was very strong, and the entire people in the camp trembled. (Exodus 19:16)
And the Jewish people pray that G-d will hear the shofar sound and look on His people with mercy. May it be so.