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

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

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?

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

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.