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Meaning Shofar

Meaning Shofar

Meaning Shofar


The Shofar… Its Meaning

Long connected with Judaism the shofar has found a very important place in the lives of the Jewish community. Of all the holidays in modern day Judaism the shofar is sounded during the Rosh Hashanah or Jewish New Year service. Rosh Hashanah is when the old year gives way to the new year  and prayers are sent forth asking God to grant them health and happiness. The shofar is over 3000 years old but has a place of its own in the Jewish world even today.

During the central Amidah prayer service the shofar is sounded at three particular points. Yom Kippur is the other occasion when the shofar is sounded. It is the day of Jewish atonement when God is approached with true remorse of the sins committed and forgiveness is sought.  A fast is a sign of contrition. The shofar is sounded long and loud to signal the end of the fast on Yom Kippur.

The shofar is made of the horn of a ram. It can also be made using the horn of goats or gazelles but they are not so common. The horn is then hollowed using heat and trimmed, curved or twisted as per the wishes of the maker. The mouth piece has to remain natural. It is a small funnel shaped aperture that is kept as is. There are no valves keys or slides. The sound emitted is determined by its length. A small shofar about 8-10 inches long will produce a high pitched sound while a longer one will have deeper richer tones.

The shofar has different meanings for different occasions.

  1. The shofar acts like a wake-up call amongst the Jews.
  2. Literature and liturgy described it as the clarion call.
  3. On the occasion of Rosh Hashanah the shofar is sounded to shock the Jews into alertness.
  4. In the Book of Joshua the shofar was the trumpet of war
  5. It was the shofar that “brought the walls tumbling down”. Their sound inspires the Israelites and warned their enemies.
  6. The shofar inspired awe.
  7. Post the 1967 reunification of Jerusalem, a shofar was sounded at the western wall by the Chief Rabbi of the IDF. This wall was the last piece of the Second Temple. The action was seen as an affirmation of the link between City and Land by the Jews.
  8. The blowing of the shofar announced the jubilee year in Biblical times, and since then the horn has signified freedom, proclaimed victory in war and to bring closer the listener and God.

The shofar has many meanings. But the true meaning is that when the shofar is sounded it makes every Jewish heart rejoice in life living, prayer, happiness and good will towards one and all.  

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