The Shofar is a holy ancient instrument used to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year and the Jubilee Year. This website tells the history, practical techniques and Jewish law of sounding the Shofar. (short)
The Shofar is a holy ancient instrument used to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It is also sounded during the Jubilee Year on Yom Kippur. This website tells the history, practical techniques and Jewish law of sounding the Shofar.
Blast From the Past
“Nothing so much enhances a good as to make sacrifices for it”.
George Santayana (1863-1952) American philosopher and poet
Early Horn Uses
Pre-historic humankind utilized whatever was useful in their environment. Wherever the primitive lived, they utilized the available materials to signal. Those in the Indian and Caribbean Seas used the Conch shell. The Australian aborigines, the didjeridoo (a bamboo hollowed out by fire ants).
Hindus also utilize the Conch Trumpet. In ancient China, the primitives played the Yu – a reed wind instrument made of bamboo.
Where is the Shofar in the Bible?
Commentators have tracked the word “Shofar” in 7 parts of the Hebrew Scripture: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Joshua Chronicles and 5-psalms
In the first five books of Moses, Shofar is cited:
13 . . . Only when the ram's horn sounds a long blast may they go up to the mountain."
In Leviticus 23 and 24, there is a priestly commandment:
"In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe complete rest, a sacred occasion commemorated with loud blasts" (Lev. 23:24).
There are references to the Shofar in the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament, that Gabriel will announce the Messiah with the sound the Shofar. (16;Matthew 24:29-31; I Thessalonians 4:16-17; I Corinthians 15:51-52 .
The burnt, grain, peace, sin, and guilt offering composed the basic sacrificial system of Israel. These sacrifices were commonly used in conjunction with each other and were carried out on both an individual and a corporate basis. The sacrificial system taught the necessity of dealing with sin and, at the same time, demonstrated that God had provided a way for dealing with sin.
1. Burnt offering (olah). The burnt offering of certain animals was offered both in the morning and in the evening, as well as on special days such as the Sabbath, the new moon, and the yearly feasts (Numbers 28-29; 2 Kings 16:15; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 2 Chronicles 31:3; Ezra 3:3-6).
2. Grain offering (minchah; “meat offering” in KJV). An offering from the harvest of the land is the only type that required no bloodshed. (Leviticus 2:13)
3. Peace offering . This consisted of the sacrifice of a bull, cow, lamb, or goat that had no defect. As with the burnt offering, the individual laid a hand on the animal and killed it. The priests, in turn, sprinkled the blood around the altar. The priest received the breast and the right thigh (Leviticus 7:28-36), but the offerer was given much of the meat to have a meal of celebration (Leviticus 7:11-21).
4. Sin offering was designed to deal with sin that was committed unintentionally. The sacrifice varied according to who committed the sin.
5. Guilt offering. This is hard to distinguish from the sin offering (Leviticus 4-5). In Leviticus 5:6-7, the guilt offering is called the sin offering.
Interestingly the sacrifice system is found in the New Testament. Hebrews portrays Jesus as the sinless high priest who offered himself up as a sacrifice for sinners (Leviticus 7:27). The book ends with an encouragement to offer sacrifices of praise to God through Jesus.
After the Romans destroyed the Holy Temple, the sacrificial cult terminated. During this time, moreover, the early Church also disbanded the sacrificial rites because Christianity began to differ materially form Judaism.
Thereafter, two Priests stood atop of a marble stand near the altar signaling trumpet blasts: tekiah, tekiah and teruah. A long note followed a series of short notes; then another long note.
In the Mishnah (gathering the laws of the Bible, written in 200 CE by great-grandchildren of those who worshipped at The Temple in Jerusalem) there is a difference of opinion when reciting the manner of Shofar sounding in the Temple in Jerusalem. The Sages indicate that on Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) Two Shofars and one trumpet are sounded at the sacrifices. The remainder of the year, two trumpets and one Shofar. There are others who contend that the Shofar was sounded only on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur during the Jubilee Year (every 50-years when debts and servitude is forgiven). The fact is that whatever was the system was forgotten in three generations.
There is also a dispute as to what the Shofar sounds should be. The Sages agreed on the “Teki'ah" blast) but differed in “Teruah" note. Some of the Rabbi’s indicated that Teruah was 9 staccato sounds; others, three weeping wounds. The Rabbis compromised by adding all both sounds in the service.
Reasons for Sounding the Shofar
The Saadiah Gaon (10th century CE, head of a famous Babylonian university) offers ten reasons, two of which are cited below:
(1) as a reminder to be faithful to the teachings of the Torah, since the Shofar was heard at the giving of the Torah;
(2) as a reminder of the prophets, the teachers of righteousness, who raised their voices desire the Shofar to touch our consciences (Abudarham [Jerusalem, 1959 ed.], 269f.).