The shofar is an instrument made from a hollowed-out ram’s horn. Throughout Jewish history, it has been sounded in a variety of situations. Here are some instances of shofar-blowing in the past, present—and future:

1. On Rosh Hashanah

Art by Michelle Gaynor
Art by Michelle Gaynor

Following the biblical command, the Jewish new year is jump-started with the blasts of the shofar on the first two days of the year (Rosh Hashanah).1 Through blowing the shofar, we are coronating G‑d as King of the universe, renewing our pledge of loyalty for another year and assuring His continued care and protection for all His creations.

Learn more about the Rosh Hashanah shofar-blowing.

2. During the Month of Elul

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

Elul is the month that precedes Rosh Hashanah. It is customary to blow the shofar every day of the month (besides for Shabbat and the eve of Rosh Hashanah) in anticipation of the holy day. These early-morning blasts are a poignant reminder of the spiritually charged days up ahead.

Read: Shofar in Elul: How and Why?

3. Following Yom Kippur

Although not mandated by Torah, Jewish communities all over the world conclude Yom Kippur—the sacred day of fasting and praying—with a blast of the shofar. For many, it signals the climax of an exhausting but rewarding spiritual workout.

Learn Four Classic Reasons for Post-Yom Kippur Shofar

4. Heralding the Jubilee Year

In biblical Israel, once every 50 years, all land would revert to its original owners, loans were forgiven, slaves were set free and farming was restricted. This time was known as the Jubilee, or Yovel in Hebrew. The word yovel actually means “ram,” and this special year was first announced by a special blast of a ram’s horn (shofar) during Yom Kippur of that year all across the land of Israel.2

Read: When Is the Next Jubilee Year?

5. At Mount Sinai

The Jewish people became G‑d’s nation at Mount Sinai, where G‑d chose them as His people and communicated His expectations of them. At that dramatic encounter, there were “thunder claps and lightning flashes, and a thick cloud was upon the mountain, and a very powerful blast of a shofar, and the entire nation that was in the camp shuddered.”3

Read: What Happened at Mount Sinai?

6. When The Walls of Jericho Crumbled

Forty years after the encounter at Sinai, the People of Israel were poised to enter the Promised Land. Regarded as the “key to the Land,” Jericho was the first city Joshua and the Israelites would need to defeat. Following Joshua's instructions, the Israelites encircled Jericho. They marched around the city walls, led by the priests who carried the Holy Ark, and sounded the shofar. This performance was repeated for seven days. On the seventh day, the people gave a great shout and the walls of the city collapsed.4

Read: Crossing the Jordan

7. When Gideon Trounced the Midianites

As recorded in the Book of Judges, following G‑d’s command, Gideon took 300 men to fight against the mighty Midianite army, which was poised to attack Israel. Each man had with him a torch, a clay pitcher and a shofar. They shattered the pitchers and blew the shofars, thoroughly frightening the surprised Midianite troops. They then slew their enemies and drove the remainder from the land.5

Read a brief biography of Gideon.

8. When King David Marched With the Ark to Jerusalem

During a disastrous war with the Philistines, the Holy Ark was captured, and for many years it remained in exile, far from its proper place in the Tabernacle. After King David captured Jerusalem, he famously paraded the Ark to a specially prepared tent in his new capital, amidst much singing, dancing (his wife Michal thought there was too much dancing on his part) and shofar-blowing.6

Read about the inner meaning of David’s joyous dance.

9. When Solomon Was Crowned King

David had chosen his wise (but still quite young) son Solomon to succeed him as king. But there were others who wanted the throne as well. In order to make things clear, Solomon was pronounced king while his father was still alive. After Solomon was anointed by Tzadok the Priest, all the people declared, “Long live King Solomon,” and the shofar was blown. This was followed by the playing of flutes and other musical instruments.7

Read a brief biography of King Solomon.

10. In Times of Danger

At times, the shofar was used as an alarm. “Will a shofar be sounded in the city and the people not quake?” said the prophet Amos.8 Indeed, in ancient times, a lookout would sound the shofar to warn of approaching enemy troops.9

Learn the context of this verse from Amos.

11. Late on Friday Afternoons

The sages instituted that as Shabbat approaches on Friday afternoon, six blasts of the shofar should be sounded to remind everyone to desist from work and make final preparations for the holy day.10 Nowadays, in some communities in Israel and New York, air-raid sirens (or beautiful Shabbat music in some cases) serve to remind everyone that it’s time to kindle the Shabbat lights and welcome the Day of Rest.

Read: Why Light Shabbat Candles 18 Minutes Before Sundown?

12. When Moshiach Will Come

“And it will be on that day,” says Isaiah, “the great shofar will be blown, and those lost in Assyria and those who were exiled in Egypt will come to bow to G‑d on the holy mountain in Jerusalem.”11 Tradition tells us that this horn belonged to the ram that was sacrificed instead of Isaac. The first horn of this ram was blown at Sinai, and the larger one will herald the beginning of the messianic era.12

Learn more about the messianic era.