What: A shofar is a horn of a kosher animal with the marrow removed. Blow into a shofar, and you get a shofar blast. Blow the right sequence of blasts at the right time of year, and you’ve got a great mitzvah.
When: In the Bible, Rosh Hashanah is called “The Day of the Shofar Blast.” That’s the mitzvah of the day: to hear the blasts of the shofar. Since Rosh Hashanah is two days long, we need to hear the shofar blown during the daytime hours of both of those days—unless the first day falls on Shabbat, in which case we blow the shofar only on the second day. This year, 2015, we blow the shofar on September 14th and 15th.
Why: Basically, because it’s a mitzvah. But the blasts of the shofar are also wake-up calls. Rosh Hashanah is the time to shake out of our spiritual slumber, reconnect to our source, and recommit to our divine mission in this world.
Who: While only men over Bar Mitzvah are obligated to hear shofar, the custom is that both women and children hear the shofar as well.
Where: Venue of preference is your local synagogue. There, the shofar is blown after the Torah reading. Click here to find a synagogue closest to you. No way you can make it? Contact your local Chabad rabbi. He’ll do his best to arrange for a shofar-blower to pay you a personal visit.
How: It may look simple, but you’ve got to play by the rules. Unless you know all the rules, leave it to your rabbi or another professional. Here are the basics:
The shofar-blower recites two blessings, and then blows a set sequence of three kinds of blasts: 1) Tekiah—an uninterrupted blast lasting for several seconds. 2) Shevarim—three medium-length blasts. 3) Teruah—a minimum of nine very short blasts.
Do it right, and you end up with thirty such blasts on the shofar. That’s the minimum requirement. In the synagogue, we blow a total of one hundred blasts, with the additional blasts distributed over the course of the prayers that follow the Torah reading.