General Information concerning the Shofar

The Shofar is a horn that is used by Jewish people for religious purposes. It is more often than not made of a ram’s horn and is blown in the Jewish House of Prayer (commonly known as a Synagogue) on the Rosh Hashanah festival and on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). The Shofar comes in a variety of colors and sizes. In Biblical times, the Shofar had many more roles than it has today and we would like to explore these to give you a fuller picture of the significance of the Shofar in days gone by…

The Shofar at Sinai

In the book of Exodus (19:16), it is reported that at the Revelation at Mount Sinai, there was a blast of a Shofar emanating from a thick cloud over the mountain that caused the Jewish people (then called Israelites) to tremble in awe. The sound of the Shofar is similar to that of a cry or wail and it is understandable that such a noise seemingly emerging from the sky would scare the people as they wait to receive G-d’s Torah.

The Shofar and the Festivals

According to the book of Psalms and the book of Leviticus, the Shofar was also used in order to announce the Jewish festivals and the Jubilee year. In fact, what is now known as the festival of Rosh Hashanah, is actually referred to in the Bible as “a memorial of blowing” (Leviticus 23:24) or as a “day of blowing” (Numbers 29) due to the central role of the Shofar on these days.

The Shofar as an instrument of war

It is relayed in the books of Joshua, Judges and Samuel l that the Shofar was also used to signify the start of a war. Indeed, the famous war of Jericho involved Israelites encircling the city seven times, blowing the seventh time, before the walls collapsed and they conquered the city.

The Shofar in the Temple

According to the book of Psalms it is clear that the Shofar was used in the Temple as a musical accompaniment, as well as being part of the Temple orchestra.  The Shofar was sometimes played together with trumpets in the Temple and on New Year’s Day (Rosh Hashanah) the main ceremony consisted of the Shofar being blown, accompanied by a trumpet on either side of it. On fast days a trumpet would be played in the center, with a Shofar on either side of it.

The Shofar and the Jubilee Year

On the Yom Kippur of the Jubilee Year, the Shofar was sounded in order to announce the Jubilee Year. The Jubilee Year occurred every fifty years and meant that Jewish people were granted forgiveness, indentured Israelites were set free and the fields became the property of the priests.

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