Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Shofar Sounds for the Shabbat
Arthur L. Finkle
Although the sounding of the shofar on Shabbat violates no biblical precept—as it's not included in any of the 39 creative works forbidden on the Day of Rest. The Sages nevertheless forbade the sounding of the shofar on any Shabbat, because it is a "weekday-like activity." See Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 588:4.)
Below you will find an article the posts Rabbi’s asserting their independence over Temple custom:
SUNDAY, MARCH 21, 2010
Passover: How the Holy Temple Observed
Arthur L. Finkle
The shofar sounds during all the holidays in the Jewish year: the New Year, the Day of Atonement and the three pilgrimage festival. For the three pilgrimage festivals there are three very different rituals that the Priests practiced in the Holy Temple.
During the Passover in the Temple, there was a ceremony with golden and silver bowls through which the sacrificial blood of lambs were Pesach, the Priests sounded the shofar was sounded 3-times each for three parts of the Temple ceremony. The Mishnah Pesachim 64, it states:
Babylonian Talmud in Pesachim 64b gives an example of the great number of people who entered Jerusalem and partook in this mitzvah by retelling that one year King Agrippa wanted to count the number of people. He instructed the high priest to count the number of sacrifices that were brought as the sacrifice (Korbán Pesach). When they reached 1,200,000 the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) stopped the count. This was double the number of people who had left Egypt.
There was usually a lamb for each family. Interestingly the Ethiopian Jews, who were cut off from Rabbinic Judaism, performed the lamb ceremony as was stated in the Bible, very similar to the Temple ceremony.
The Torah requires that the sacrifice be offered publicly. On the 14 day of Nisan the Kohanim (Priests) would open the doors of the temple and allow the people in with their offerings in three large groups of no less than thirty people but each group which usually were more numerous than the minimum. The Priests would stand in long lines shoulder to shoulder from the courtyard of the people into the courtyard where only Priests could enter all the way to the foot of the altar.
The first man would come with his lamb and slaughter it in front of the first Priest who would catch the blood in golden holy vessels and pass it to the next Priest and so forth until it arrived at the base of the altar where the blood was deposited.
The vessels had a round bottom to them so that the Kohanim could not put them down even for a moment in order to prevent the blood from coagulating rending the offering unfit. The vessels would be passed from Priest to Priest back and forth. The person would then move to the next station where the carcass was hung from a hook and skinned and the prohibited fats and other parts were removed.
Behind the Kohanim on a platform stood the Choir of Levites. When the process began, the Shofar was sounded with the three traditional sounds: tekia; teruah; tekia and the choir recited the Hallel prayer. This continued until the entire group that had been let in had finished offering both the Pesach offering and also the other sacrifice for the holiday called the Hagiga offering. (The first meat eaten was the meat of the Hagiga sacrifice and then later the Passover Sacrifice which was eaten with bitter herbs and matzah.)
An important feature is the Shofar’s prominence of solemnity, holiness and reminder of the significance of freedom from slavery. These blasts focused attention on the sacrifice of blood, representing giving one’s own life through animal blood as a metaphor of obeisance to God.
Origin of Hallel
The Hallel consists of Psalms 113 through 118 and is a central prayer in Judaism. It is recited by observant Jews as praise and thanksgiving on Jewish holidays, including Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot and on other occasions such as Hanukkah and the New Moon (Rosh Chodesh).
Rabbinic tradition credits King David with having written almost all of the Psalms, including those which now make up Hallel. R. Eleazar ben Yosé, however, ascribed Hallel to Moses and the Israelites; while R. Judah taught that the prophets had decreed that these psalms be recited to mark national events and deliverance from peril. Other sages maintained that Hallel was recited by various leaders of Israel throughout the biblical period----by Joshua, Deborah, and Hezekiah, by Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, by Mordecai and Esther (Pes. l l7a-118a).
They would chant the Hallel for each group at least three times. Accordingly, there were nine shofar blasts. When all of this was finished they would allow the next group in after the first group left. This occurred three times. If the 14th day of Nisan were Shabbat everything was done the same way except that the people could not take the meat home with them until after Shabbat.
Thursday, September 26, 2013
Arthur L. Finkle
These rituals of Hoshana Rabbah go back to the times of the Holy Temple.
In reading the tractate Succah, both Palestinian and Babylonian, we come across some fascinating social history regarding the role of the shofar in the ceremonies of the Holy Temple.
We learn that part of the Succot ceremony is celebrated today insofar as dwelling in the sukkah and handling the lulav (palm branch), etrog (related to the lemon, indigenous to Israel), myrtle branch and water willow branch (Arava).
Many ritual services omit two other important rites of the Holy Temple on Succot: the Aravot Ceremony and the Water Libation Ceremony.
The Rabbi’s transformed the Water Willow Dance, performed on the seventh day of Succot, into Hoshana Rabba on the seventh day of Succot.
Water Libation Ceremony
The Water Libation Ceremony rationale taught the Jewish people to bring water before Him on Succot, petitioning for adequate rains, paramount to the success of their agricultural commerce and society. (Succah Bavli 37; and Rosh Hashana 16a).
The Midrash (book of ethical stories and interpretations) interprets the water ceremony as the sadness when God separated the waters to upper and lower (to form the firmament). God noted their distress; thus, elevated the lower waters during this rite. (Rabbaynu Bachya to Lev 1:13)
The Water Libation ceremony was an elaborate ritual emitting great joy, in fulfilling of Isaiah 12:3:”You shall draw water with joy from the wellsprings of salvation.”
The Rabbi’s in Yerushalmi Succah 31b (Palestinian) give a social history of the role of the shofar in the Holy Temple, with particular emphasis on Succot. Further, the Rabbis agreed that the Water Libation Ceremony is Scriptural) See Bavli Zevachim 110b.
The seven times around the Temple is replicated in Rabbinical ordained holiday, (Simhat Torah). Each circling with Torahs in hand, the congregation circles the prayer house at the signal of a shofar blast.
Jonatan Adler discusses this ceremony as he describes ancient coins which depicted this ceremony. The depiction shows the golden flasgon used to gather the water from the well of Sheloah; a willow branch
"What was the rite of the willow-branch? There was a place below Jerusalem called Motza. The Talmud indicates that Bavli Talmud cites that city to be Kalonia. Because it was tax-exempt, the trees were ownerless; thus, there was no taint of theft involved. See Meiri Bavli 45a.
Priests collected young willow branches, and then came and set them upright along the sides of the altar, with their tops bent over the top of the altar, after which the trumpets made a long blast, a quavering note, and a prolonged blast". These trumpets were sounded by Kohanim (Priests) See Num. 10:8, 9 and Mishnah Succot 5:6.
In Tractate Zevahim 110a-b, the Rabbi’s discuss the water libation service is described in detail in Tractate Sukkah (p. 48) . The Priest bought water from the Shiloah spring (underneath the Temple) to the Temple with great fanfare. The Priest took the jug of water, walked up the ramp to the altar and turned left, where there were two bowls that drained into the foundation of the Temple. The bowls were for the the water libation on Sukkot and for the wine libation that accompanied many of the sacrifices.
Here we get into a fine point of Jewish Law. Rabbi Elazar prohibits such copying of Temple practices. See Zevahim 110a-b. However, the later commentators differ.Rabbi Akiva who derives the service of the water libation from passages in the Torah (Numbers 29:31), the Talmud concludes that this obligation is a law given by Moses on Mt. Sinai, an oral tradition received by Moses on Mount Sinai). In his Commentary to the Mishnah, the Maimonides (1140-1215) suggests that the Jewish Law will be different depending on whether the source for this mitzvah is actually in the Torah or if it is an oral tradition.
While many of the commentaries object to this distinction, arguing that both are considered biblical, it appears that Maimonides follows the approach of the Jerusalem Talmud (Sanhedrin 11:4) that distinguishes between them, and understands that Jewish Law from the oral tradition of Moses is similar to the oral tradition of the Rabbi’s.
An interesting note is that the Pharisees opposed this holding. Yersul. Succah 27a.
It should be also noted that, although most trees in ancient Egypt were not considered holy, the willow tree was the primordial tree on which the sun rested in the shape of a bird at the beginning of the world. It was sacred to Osiris and gave shade to his coffin while his soul rested on it.
Trees were possibly less important in the Egyptian religion than in others. But some trees had divine connections, being home, birthplace or resting place of some deities. In the temple at Denderah one inscription proclaims: The names of the sacred trees are jS.t, kbs, tr. http://www.reshafim.org.il/ad/egypt/botany/willow.htm
Shofar and Willow Branches
They would then blow the shofar in the standard fashion, with one broken sound (teru'ah) preceded and followed by a solid sound (teki'ah).
Although the Rabbi’s disagreed over the exact time this ritual began, they concurred that the Prophets instituted this custom. Thus, it was not likely occurring in the Frist Temple but was in the Second Temple.
The Rabbi’s taught that willows of the brook mean of special type of willow as opposed to another species of willow (zafzafah) which grows in the mountains. (Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 34a)
Accordingly, the Rabbi’s decreed the seventh day of Succot as Hoshana Rabba, the day of many petitions for salvation ( the time that the Book of Life and Death are finally sealed).
Shofar and Water Ceremony
The Rabbi’s explored some history. (Bavli, Rosh Hashana 16a). As the world is judged for water on Succot, we used to bring a water offering so that the rains for the coming year should be blessed. Water was the lifeblood of the Israeli agricultural society. Petitioning adequate water was a prayer to further one’s livelihood and life.
Another reason is that the holiday of the harvest moon (on which Succot begins) occurs five days after Yom Kippur in the harvest season. During the harvest season, a person may become haughty and forget God. The Rabbi’s reflect that haughtiness affects not only farmers, of course. The wise may take credit for their knowledge and those of fine character may take credit for their graces. The bottom line is that all we get, whether it be money, wisdom, or respect, comes from God. See http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/sukkos/vol3no21.html
Succot 4:5 indicates that The shofar blew three times (tekiah, teruah and tekiah) before the priests circled the altar, in order to draw attention to this important festival.
The Sages from the 11th through 16th centuries explain that the reason that this is specifically done on the seventh day of Succot is that it is a day of judgment for water. This means rain and, in a broader sense, all livelihood. We therefore add special prayers to ask for a good year. The Talmud records a dispute as to whether this is a prophetically ordained custom or not, but we do know that it traces back to the Holy Temple.
Transition of Water Willow Dance to Hoshana Rabba
The name for this holiday probably comes from Psalm 118:25. Hoshana means to save. This is the seventh day of the Feast of Tabernacles. It comes one day before Shimini Atzeret (Special Day petitioning for rain which also is the last day of Succot). It is usually observed on the 21st day of the Hebrew month Tishri. It is also called "the great Hosanna."
- This practice in the Temple serves as the basis for our modern custom of Hosannas. As reported by The TUR (14th century German-Spanish Legalist, in Orech Chaim 660), we circle the bema once a day with a Torah being taken to the bema (a practice based on the Yalkut Tehillim) and thus serving as the focal point and in place of the altar. We also bring a Torah to the middle since during the time of the Holy Temple the marchers would recite the name of God while walking, and we have a tradition that the entire Torah is made up of various names of God. According to the Yerushalmi (Palestinian Talmud), our current practice reflects not only what was done during the time of the Temple, but also is meant to mimic the siege and conquering of Jericho in the time of Joshua, when they circled the city once a day for six days and seven times on the final day, causing the walls to come tumbling down (Joshua 6).
R. Joseph Caro (compiler of the Code of Jewish Law, 1565) notes that on Hoshana Rabba (seventh day of Succot), even a person who does not have the four species (palm branch, myrtle, water willow and etrog) should take part in the seven laps around the Torah. His rationale is that since there is a special remembrance of what was done in the Temple - see Succah 41a for more on this concept). The common practice is that a person who does not have the four species never takes part in the walking around the bima.
Importance of the Shofar
Rosh Hashana is the festival of the shofar. Yom Kippur sounds the shofar at the end of the service, originally to announce the Jubilee Year. The shofar called ATTENTION TO Succot, to petition God for abundant rains and consequent harvest. It also echoed, in a minor form, the elaborate Water Libation Ceremony during which the shofar sounded 15 times, for every step to climb to the altar.
Some synagogues retain traces of the Holy Temple.. No longer do we make animal and meal sacrifices. But keep the intent of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. And we have spiritualized the festival of Succot to one of petition for agricultural needs, to one of remembrance and thanksgiving. Further, Hoshana Rabba celebrates the closing of the book of accounting.
Monday, August 19, 2013
Preparations One Whole Month Before Rosh Hashanah
Arthur L. Finkle
Tisha B’av signals to me that there are 7-weeks before Rosh HaShanah. Therefore, I spiritually prepare myself by practicing the shofar at the beginning of the next month - Elul. During Elul, we customarily sound the shofar at the end of morning services.
== ==Sounding the shofar at services is a practical way of preparing for the “real deal” on Rosh HaShanah. In addition, this period serves as a reminder to orient my attention to appropriate repentance.
Being a Shofar Sounder and Shofar teacher for 30+ years, I want to share a routine is based on sound musical principals expressed (hopefully) in plain English.
If you have any questions or concerns, contact me at:
Or any of the websites below:
Joint Effort with Michael Chusid, an expert Shofar sounder and commentator
Shofar Sounders WebPage
WE MUST WARM-UP! This should not be left to chance nor 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. In simple terms, a noise from a musical instrument plays more than one note, called Harmonics, but the principal musical tone produced by **vibration** (as of a string or column of air) is the fundamental or most prominent tone. **http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/fundamental**
Then, focus on your attack (how you articulate the note). 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 horn will become the same temperature as your body because the instrument should be the same temperature or more than the room. A cold note becomes flat (off-tune or atonal).
The shofar’s sound is similar to creation as that of a brass instrument (Trumpet, French horn, trombone, tuba, etc) in that the lips vibrate creating a “buzzing.”
You should practice buzzing; (brass players do this by 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 blowing into it to stimulate your embouchure. (See The Art of French Horn Playing by Philip Farkas, The Complete Method by Milan Yancich, and 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 up your embouchure 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.
Related issues are 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 of day. Practice standing up; sitting down will change your embouchure.
Initially, practice the fundamental note until you feel your muscles get adjusted. Do not play too much beyond this level. If they tire, 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 on the attack. The quality of an attack is determined by the position of the tongue’s 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 the side of their side tongue and move it back. The technique that is most effective for the Sounder – and still allows maintenance of the correct embouchure -- is the correct way.
During the first week, work on your embouchure (muscle tone of your lip and surrounding facial muscles) by sounding the most prominent note (fundamental).
How long – start with no more than 5-minutes per day; gradually increase this practice time so you will build and tone your embouchure.
You should begin with phrase 1.
The tekiah is one blast – some end it with a small ‘up’ not (but is not necessary)
The shevarim is three moaning sounds. In music we call these slurs. They begin with a low note and slide up to the dominant note. You accomplish this by tightening the lips.
The Teruah – nine staccato notes. To avoid confusion, count the nine notes as three triplets, thus: xxx xxx xxx. The notes are articulated by touching the tongue to the tip of the shofar for nine times.
Tonguing needs practice and repetition to become natural.
Begin the play the sets
Phrase 2 - T-SH-T (3X) Tekiah-SHevarim -Tekiah
Phrase 3 - T-R-T (3X) Tekiah- teRuah-Tekiah
You may sustain ‘lip fatigue’ – your lip will tire and will not respond the way you desire.
Continue practicing the phrases for as many times as you can In doing so, you will memorize the association of the sounds and their names . Also, you will build stamina and embouchure definition. Note that you are focusing on endurance athletics but you do need a certain amount of stamina and lip strength to beat fatigue.
Learn Prayer To Be Recited On Rosh Hashanah
Praised are You, O Lord, Master of the Universe who has commanded us to hear the shofar
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech
Ha-olam, asher kid-shanu b-mitz-votav
Vi-tzi-vanu Lish-moa Kol Shofar.
First Day Only
Work from the prayer book to practice each series of sounds. Some congregations sound thirty note; others, ninety; most, 100 sounds.
On a couple of the days, I suggest you work with the kri’ah (the one who pronounces the sounds so you can coordinate your activities. You also will ‘feel each other out,’ as so often happens in musical schemes.
On the day before Rosh HaShanah – do not practice. Although Jewish law forbids such practice, the musical reason is to enable your embouchure to rest on the day prior to performance, such as soloists do prior to musical recitals.
Shofar Practice Guide
To watch video on Shofar Practice Guide go to:
Or in writing http://tinyurl.com/27ykf94
Arthur L. Finkle
Special thanks for significant input of premier shofar Sounder Michael Chusid, RA FCSI