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What Is a Shofar?

What Is a Shofar?


A shofar is the horn of a kosher animal with the marrow removed. The central mitzvah of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) is to hear the shofar being blown—often in synagogue, ideally as part of the prayer service. This year, listen to the blowing of the shofar on September 21 and 22, 2017.

When to Blow the Shofar

The Torah refers to Rosh Hashanah as the “day of the [shofar] blast.”1 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.

Although the shofar may be blown until sunset, the traditional time for shofar blowing is during morning services, after the Torah has been read, before the Musaf prayer (additional service recited on Shabbat and holidays). It is customary to blow the shofar several more times during the Musaf service.

Click here to find a shofar blowing at a synagogue near you.

What the Shofar Blowing Means to Us

A Yemenite Jew blows shofar (circa 1930s).
A Yemenite Jew blows shofar (circa 1930s).

The Torah does not specify why we are to blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. However, Rabbi Saadia Gaon compiled a list of 10 reasons for this special mitzvah:

  1. On Rosh Hashanah we coronate G‑d as King of the world. The shofar’s trumpeting call heralds this exciting event.
  2. Its piercing wail serves to awaken slumbering souls that have grown complacent.
  3. It evokes the shofar blasts that were heard when G‑d descended on Mount Sinai and gave us the Torah.
  4. It echoes the cries of the prophets who urged Israel to mend their ways and return to G‑d and His commandments.
  5. It reminds us of the war cries of our enemies as they broke into the Temple in Jerusalem and destroyed it.
  6. Made of a ram’s horn, the shofar recalls the near-sacrifice of Isaac, who was saved when G‑d showed Abraham a ram to bring as an offering in his stead.
  7. Its loud piercing sound humbles us and fills us with awe before G‑d.
  8. It foreshadows the day of judgment at the end of days, which the prophet describes as “a day of shofar and alarm against the fortified cities and against the high towers.”2
  9. It gives us hope, mirroring the sound of the “great shofar” that will call together the Jewish people who are scattered to the corners of the earth at the time of the coming of Mashiach.
  10. It reminds us of the Revival of the Dead, about which we read, “dwellers of the earth ... a shofar is sounded you shall hear.”3

Shofar Blowing Procedure

Photo: Chaya Mishulovin, Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie
Photo: Chaya Mishulovin, Lubavitch Chabad of Skokie

The shofar blower stands at the bimah (platform at the front of the synagogue), and begins by reciting a collection of verses from the Psalms followed by two blessings: The first is the blessing of Shehecheyanu, thanking G‑d for granting us yet another year of life, allowing us to blow the shofar once again. The second blesses G‑d, “who sanctified us with His commandments and commanded to hear the voice of the shofar.”

The shofar blowing contains a series of three types of blasts: tekiah, a long sob-like blast; shevarim, a series of three short wails; and teruah, at least nine piercing staccato bursts.

The primary shofar blowing consists of the following 30 blasts:


Tekiah-shevarim- tekiah

Tekiah-teruah-tekiah gedolah (extra long blast)

During the Musaf prayer, we have 7 more opportunities to blow the shofar, producing the following 10 blasts each time:


Add all that up and you’ll arrive at exactly 100 blasts. The Chabad custom is to blow an additional sequence of 30 blasts after Musaf has concluded.

Learn more about the 100 shofar blasts.

Who Needs to Hear the Shofar?

The "Small Synagogue" of St. Petersburg's gold-covered bimah, uniquely patterned ceiling and wooden floors exemplify the architectural glory of the synagogue.
The "Small Synagogue" of St. Petersburg's gold-covered bimah, uniquely patterned ceiling and wooden floors exemplify the architectural glory of the synagogue.

Technically speaking, only adult males are obligated to hear shofar. However, women should certainly make the effort to fulfill this mitzvah (in fact, some say that since women have accepted this mitzvah, it has become obligatory for them), and even small children should be brought to synagogue to hear it. After all, the shofar speaks to the soul of every Jew. Can’t make it to synagogue? Contact your local Chabad rabbi. He’ll do his best to arrange for a shofar-blower to pay you a personal visit.

The laws regarding shofar blowing are quite complex, so only one who has learned them well should blow the shofar. You can study up on them as they were codified by the first Chabad rebbe in his Shulchan Aruch.

What Constitutes a Kosher Shofar?

The Talmud tells us that the horns of all kosher animals are kosher for shofars, except for the horn of an ox, which is technically not called a “shofar” but a “keren,” and antlers, which are not considered shofars (shofar means “hollow” and antlers are solid).

Yet, of all the possibilities, the preferred source for the shofar is the ram, for the following two reasons: 1. It evokes the ram that was offered instead of Isaac, bringing to light the merit of Abraham who was ready to sacrifice his only son for G‑d. 2. Its curved shape symbolizes the humility we feel as we stand before G‑d.

Read more about which animals’ horns are OK and why.

Once removed from the animal, the horns are hollowed out by removing the core. A hole is then produced on the small end by sawing or drilling, or a combination of the two.

It is common for shofars to be polished and even reshaped through the application of extreme heat.

The shofar blast must come from pressure of human breath on the animal horn, so coatings or adornments can invalidate it, as can cracks and holes (even if they have been puttied up).

Every shofar is different, and size, shape and other factors all contribute to the sound a horn makes, so take your time to pick a shofar that works best for you.

Read tips from a trusted shofar vendor on how to choose a shofar.

Other Occasions

Shofar blowing during the month of Elul (Zalman Kleinman)
Shofar blowing during the month of Elul (Zalman Kleinman)

In ancient times, the shofar was blown in battle and as part of the Temple service. Today, besides Rosh Hashanah, the shofar is generally sounded on two occasions:

1. During the month of Elul, to get us into the Rosh Hashanah mood.

2. Following the fast of Yom Kippur.

Final Thought

The chassidic masters teach us that the cry of the shofar is akin to the wail of a child, yearning to be reunited with a beloved parent. There are no words to express a longing that is so deep, so primal and so true. So make sure to attend shofar-blowing on Rosh Hashanah and give expression to the cry of your soul.

Zephania 1:16.
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Robert Newhouse Stillwater September 14, 2017

Wonderful! Sho far sho good! Reply

Fred Missel AZ October 14, 2016

Shofar and Prayer Hello from Arizona,
Sounding the shofar and prayer go hand in hand. Because sounding the Shofar, is another way to pray to Hashem. When I teach a child or adult how to sound the Shofar, I go through many steps. First is the history and customs for the Shofar. Next is explain how the Shofar is made. What Kosher animals can be used or not used.
Next is the mechanics of sounding the shofar, the breathing, the actual sound. Then the various calls of the Shofar and meaning. Then the person tries to make the sound. When they do, I explain you're making noise, not sounding.
Last I teach them, the Shofar is another way to pray.
I tell think of a prayer in your mind. Close your eyes.
And sound. The sound you hear is your prayer lifting up to
Hashem. Reply

Fred Missel October 7, 2016

Shalom all, or out in Arizona we Shalom'yall.
Hello Jim from Dallas, it is a Mitzvah to hear the sound of the Shofar. The sound proclaims the majesty of Hashem.
And the wonder of the world.
You should go to services.
Before you go, you should open up, one of many videos
on the shofar and learn about the various calls.

Plus to realize that the B'al Tikkiah is continuing a tradition that goes back thousands of years.

La Shana Tova
Fred Missel Reply

Anonymous Tennessee October 2, 2016

You say the Shofar is blown only in the daytime hours.... then why did I hear the Shofar blown last night in Israel at the Wall while men were praying? Is not the Shofar blown to announce the spotting of the Moon coming up on a New Year? Why do you not follow G-d's Scriptures.... Psalm 81...4Sound the shofar on the New Moon, on the appointed time for the day of our festival. Reply

jim dallas September 29, 2016

very interesting, 2008 to present 2016 and 1 comment is from killen, alabama, usa, betty, 2013, i use to be on a farm there in 1950's, no plumbing! never heard a shofar there either. now I'm in Dallas Texas and don't hear them here. plenty of horns and such without meaning usually! maybe I will impose myself & go to a service if not too late. thanks to all and a tov Rosh Hashanah to us all. Reply

Fred Missel Arizona August 19, 2015

My name is Fred Missel, a B'al Tekkiah and this is m y additional commernts to my July 2015 comments. August 2015. I am once again waiting for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur with a sense of pride and wonder. I have talked about the connections I have witnessed for my Shofar students. And for me,, Because 27 years ago I had a major heart attack. One which I was not to have recovered. . And as a miracle I survived. And flourished. Because my heart cells were stunned, not dead. What did I wish to hear a few days later. As an affirmation of my faith in Hashem,, my doctors and family: I am here. It is 27 years later. I bless this day. And the gift from Hashem to teach and sound the Shofar. And blessings to all other Jewish people, al over the world who teach others to sound the Shofar, and who introduce new generations to the mitzvah of the Shofar. And it's mystical powers' Reply

Fred Missel arizona July 18, 2015

My name is Fred Missel, I live in Arizona. And I am a Ba' Al Tekkiah, I teach men how to sound the Shofar. While I am a Conservative ,, I teach my students based on the Chabad format. And, I teach my students about the great responsibility to sound the Shofar correctly, keeping a clean life. Following the commandments. And remember, people have spent the entire year yearning to hear the sound. I have witnessed miracles that have occurred to my students while they follow their studies. Or, students that have a physical impediment that should prohibit them from making a sound. I believe that Hashem communicates with all human beings, in a sill l small voice. Blessings to al who teach sounding the Shofar. Reply

Peter Sonne Denmark September 24, 2014

The sound of the sofar = Sound of heaven a Call for action Reply

Jason A. richmond hill, canada via September 15, 2014

Spiritual meaning What is the spiritual meaning if someone passes away during the blowing of the shofar on Rosh Hashannah? As this has occurred to 2 of my cherished aunts Reply

Benyamin Gerard September 3, 2013

kosher shofar A shofar is required to be either made from a ram (ashkenaz- rambam) or kudu (yemenite). no other animals are halachicly permitted. Check this site and the orthodox union's guides for further detail. Reply

Menachem Posner August 8, 2013

To Anon from Roslyn Heights During the month of ellul (but not Rosh Hashanah) we blow the following sequence:
Long blast, three medium blasts, nine short blasts, long blast
Long blast, three medium blasts, long blast
Long blast, nine short blasts, long blast Reply

Anonymous Roslyn Heights, NY August 6, 2013

Is there any specific number or types of shofar blasts that should be heard each morning except on shabbat during the month of Elul Reply

Mrs. Chana Benjaminson via August 6, 2013

Re Shofar On Rosh Hashanah the Shofar is blown at various intervals during the morning prayers.

The final blast you are mentioning may be the one that is blown at the conclusion of the Yom Kippur-Day of Atonement fast. Reply

Betty Killen, Alabama, USA August 5, 2013

Can you tell me when the final shofar blast is made during Rosh Hashanah? Reply

patrick July 4, 2013

are there specific times of the day to blow a shofar? Reply

Theresa B. Duluth, Georgia September 19, 2012

Folks Blasting a Shofar How do we know that the person(s) walking around blasting shofars aren't inspired by the Creator to do so duriing these last days...didn't the prophets have "weird" things to be done by the Father's instructions also? Who are we to question a shofar blast - it seems timely to me - at least it raises interest in this one aspect of being Hebrew that may lead to inspiring others to take a closer look and may open their eyes to seek their Maker! Reply

Don B September 17, 2012

"is it right...?" The red hoodie seems a bit odd, but who are we to judge whether his intentions are good or bad by blowing the shofar around the city? I often remind myself that I am not to judge others by their actions or words, only the Father can do this. Whatever the red hoodie man's reasoning, that is between him and his belief. Reply

Anonymous White Plains, NY September 15, 2012

Blow the shofar around the city? No, it is not right. It is NOT appropriate to be a public nuisance in the name of Judiasm or for any other reason. Using a shofar for this purpose is contrary to its traditional use. Most would consider it an annoying sound, which degrades the meaning of the the ritual. We have enough pests in NYC trying to get the attention of passers-by. If I saw this, I would be embarrassed to be of the same ethnic group. Reply

Anonymous Tel Aviv, Israel September 15, 2012

is it right to blow the shofar around the city? There's someone dressed in a red "hoodie" going around LA and now NYC blowing the shofar in all kinds of places -- at Rockefeller Center, on the subway, out a taxi window, in Grand Central station, at a barber shop, on Olvera St. in LA It's sponsored by a synagogue in LA. Seems weird to me and somehow inappropriate. Maybe I'm off base. I didn't think shofar blowing was for public places. Reply

marc via August 29, 2012

shofar size Size doesn't matter... as it concerns shofarim. Shorter ones are less expensive and have a higher pitch. I have played a 1-foot shofar as well as one that was almost 4-feet long.

Ram's horn not required, the animal does not need to be kosher. although koshering of the horn is not required. Antlers (solid) not acceptable.

A shofar that has a hole repaired is not kosher. Holes are cleverly repaired using pieces of horn. You must look very carefully if you want a kosher horn. Reply

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