Blowing the Shofar: Not for High Holy Days Only
I never planned to do a page about shofars. All I wanted to do was find a shofar clip. But the sounds were awesome. I encountered so many beautiful renditions, such beautiful “noise,” that I started collecting a few links: a moving clip of a shofar being blown at the Western Wall at sunrise; a whole shofar service; an amazing video of a Masai shofar sounding. Finding such lovely sounds to share was uplifting.
Of course, my discoveries didn’t stop with the beautiful ones. I encountered a plethora of somewhat less elevated examples as well. Those who know me, know that I am drawn irresistibly to the quirky and odd. It didn’t occur to me that I’d find kitschy shofar-related material, but I’m pleased to note that it does exist. Among my finds: someone playing two shofars simultaneously; taps being blown on the shofar; a shofar trio.
I located many examples of shofar flash mobs. Admittedly, the concept is more amusing (although not more fun) than the execution. In my imagination, shofar flash mobs would be akin to the Four Tops (ok, I’m old) performing: a whole bunch of people lined up and blasting away in choreographed harmony. I wasn’t envisioning sequined costumes, you understand — just a little synchronization. Scroll to the end of this page to see a few examples of shofar flash mobs.
So, What Is a Shofar?
My sister, Donna, not only is extremely knowledgeable about Judaic traditions and history, but is also a talented and experienced shofar blower. I’ll be posting a video of her in action as soon as I get one. Meanwhile, this is her explanation about Rosh Hashana and the shofar:
A shofar is an animal horn, in this case antelope, but often ram. It was a common tool for sending signals in ancient days, and from the start of Judaism has played a significant ritual role in the High Holy Days ceremonies. The shofar is sounded several times during services on Rosh HaShanah (the upcoming New Year, first day of the 7th month of the year). Three basic types of blasts are used in a pattern:
T’kiah (long blast)
Shevarim (3 medium)
T’ruah (9 short) — a sort of morse code, if you will
T’kiah g’dola, the extra-long blast.
The period of the new year lasts 10 days, ending on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). Yom Kippur is a fast day, and the end of the holiday is marked by blowing T’kiah g’dola, although otherwise the shofar is not blown on Yom Kippur. Generally one person in a service is designated to be the shofar blower; it’s not a free-for-all!
The shofar blowing is actually quite important. Jews are commanded to hear the shofar on Rosh HaShanah, and it’s about the only real command there is for that holiday. If Rosh HaShanah falls on the Sabbath, the shofar can’t be blown, and must wait till the second day. It’s the only genuine two-day holiday we have, although all major holidays are celebrated for two days by most Jewish denominations.
Street Shofar Man
Among the more entertaining things I encountered, was Street Shofar Man Michael Brous, sometimes also known as Sexy Shofar Man. Brous has taken his Shofar on the road and randomly blows it in unexpected places, for unsuspecting (and often clueless) crowds. Here’s one example.
Shofar Flash Mobs: 3 Cities, 3 Styles
Here are videos of shofar flash mobs in New York City, San Francisco, and in Jerusalem. They’re definitely more organized in Israel. The New York crowd is much larger and kind of random. A lot of milling around with sporadic toots erupting from the group. The event in Jerusalem includes singing, dancing, readings, and the participants blow their shofars at the same time, and on cue. The San Francisco event is very focused: a continuous wall of shofar sound for over three minutes. All three clips are fun to watch.