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Saturday, September 15, 2012

Shofar: Sounds like Rosh Hashanah

(by Alphonse Levy)
Animal horns that were used by their original owners to signal dominance and defense will soon be used by Rosh Hashanah worshippers to signal holiness and awe.

These instruments - known as shofars - are traditionally fashioned from rams' horns, but can also be obtained from the horns of any Bovidae animal except the cow.  Bovidae horns consist of keratin, which can easily
be hollowed out (as opposed to antlers, which consist of bone).  Whereas Sefardi and Ashkenazi shofars are generally made from the horns of domestic rams, Yemeni ones are usually made from the horns of kudus.

Wikipedia reports that the shofar blowing on Rosh Hashanah honors God's kingship and commemorates Isaac's near sacrifice.  The Bible mentions the following types of shofar sounds:  t'qiah (bass) and teruah
(treble).  Talmudic interpretations of such biblical references have resulted in a mix of "moaning/groaning" and "staccato beat" blasts of the horn. Most Rosh Hashanah services include a minimum of 30 blasts, and many include 100 or 101.  It is even customary to add 30 more after the service
has ended in order "to confuse the Adversary."

It is a sacred honor to be the Ba'al T'qiah (shofar sounder, aka "Master of the Blast").  Traditionally, a God-fearing man who was steeped in the Torah was chosen.  These days, however, "a far more diverse group of Jews are asking their rabbis for shofar lessons."  The Religion News Service reports that Jennie Litvak, "an accomplished trumpeter who took lessons from Dizzy Gillespie as a girl growing up in Montreal," will be the Ba'al T'qiah this Rosh Hashanah at Congregation Adas Israel in Washington, D.C.


Copyright September 15, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved 

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