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Shofar Has Four Sounds

This is a menu of the topics on this page (click on any): Hearing the shofar    Who can blow the shofar?    Any day but the Sabbath, for some   .

Shofar has four sounds and a number of rules

By Elizabeth Clarke, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 6, 2002

Shofar blowers learn to make two primary -- but four total -- sounds on the instrument. Each is made in a prescribed order totaling 100 blasts on Rosh Hashana. Just one blast is sounded on Yom Kippur, at the end of the day of fasting and prayer. Here are the sounds:

Tekiah -- one long simple note, like an alarm.

Shevarim -- three medium blasts

Teruah -- nine short blasts.

Tekiah gedolah -- a single blast that lasts until the blower runs out of breath.

Hearing the shofar

The Torah commands its people to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashana. But the Talmud -- the collection of Torah commentaries that constitute Jewish law -- sets out the rules on a shofar's use. Some denominations follow these more precisely than others.

A shofar must:

Be made from a kosher animal, although many say shofars should be made only from a ram's horn -- and not from a bull.

Be hollow. It cannot be solid or have hair inside.

Be bent, not straight, representing the idea that "our hearts should be bent toward God," says Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui of Chabad Lubavitch of Palm Beach.

Be at least 4 inches long. No limits are set on maximum length.

Be sounded alone, according to some traditional Jews. Hearing two or more together would disrupt the pure voice of the shofar, they believe.

Not have holes or cracks. Either -- no matter its size -- renders a shofar unusable and it cannot be repaired.

Not be adorned with a mouthpiece, paint, varnish or other trimmings.

Who can blow the shofar?

Each denomination has its own rules about who can blow the shofar during services. Most Reform synagogues allow anyone to blow the horn. Many Conservative temples permit anyone who has become a bar or bat mitzvah at the age of 13. Orthodox and Lubavitch congregations ban women and children from blowing the shofar. They believe only those who have become bar mitzvahs -- and often only a rabbi -- can perform the task.

Any day but the Sabbath, for some

This year, Reform temples will be the only ones sounding the shofar on the first day of Rosh Hashana. Because the first day falls on the Sabbath, Conservative and Orthodox synagogues will be quiet on Saturday. Their traditions ban the practice on the Sabbath. But these denominations, unlike the Reform tradition, observe two days of Rosh Hashana and will sound their shofars on Sunday. Typically, they would blow the shofar both days. Traditional temples also sound the shofar every morning -- except the Sabbath -- of the Hebrew month preceding Rosh Hashana.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica; Rabbi Isaac Jeret, Temple Emanuel, Palm Beach; Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui, Chabad Lubavitch of Palm Beach, North Palm Beach; Cantor Norman Brody, Temple Beth El, West Palm Beach; Cantor Ann Turnoff, Temple Beth El, Boca Raton.

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