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Simply Shofars - A Natural Item with a Beautiful Sound

Aug 17, 2007
A shofar is a natural instrument made from a ram's horn (ashkenazi shofar) or an African antelope yemenite shofar). In ancient times, it was blown during religious ceremonies as well as a signal for battle. Today, shofars are blown during the high holiday services, during Rosh Hashanah and at the end of Yom Kippur. Sometimes educators will bring a shofar into school to teach on the ancient traditions, and increasingly more and more Christians are using shofars during their worship times. Besides these regular uses, a shofar makes a great gift for bar or bat mitzvah, birthday, anniversary, marriage and more, because it helps reinforce Jewish heritage, and the values of Judaism, and many a home has a shofar on display.

Shofars in general measure from about 7" to 52", measured along the curve. The sound is affected by the length of the shofar along the curve, the size of the mouthpiece, thickness of the shofar, size of the twist/curve, and, of course, the person playing it. In general, the larger the shofar, the easier it is to blow, the deeper the sound you'll get from it, and the more tones, but this does not always hold true and sometimes there are radical exceptions to the rule!

One thing to note is that many shofars have a distinctive odor, particularly the yemenite shofars which are more difficult to clean. If the smell is bothersome, it can be cleaned with a mixture of sand, vinegar and water, which should be shaken around inside, then rinsed and dried off. It is strongly recommended that no form of lacquer or other permanent substance be poured down the inside of the shofar, since this can cause irreversible damage.

A quality shofar will produce a good sound without an additional mouthpiece, and it is not recommended to put a mouthpiece into a shofar since it is a natural animal product and it's sound and variance in tones are all part of its distinction. In addition, because it is a natural animal product, all shofars have some form of nicks, dents, and/or scratches; remember, it has been knocked around by an animal for a long time before you ever saw it! The only thing that is not acceptable is a crack going through to the inside of the mouthpiece, since this can stop it being played properly.

When you decide to purchase a shofar, make sure you buy it from a company that's willing to provide customized service. For instance, you may want a very large, fully polished shofar that will be used primarily as a display, or you may want one that gives the most number of tones and/or highest volume for a synagogue. You may want the shofar for a young child, so it must be easy to blow and produce sound, or you may want one for yourself that has a specific tone to it.

A good shofar seller will work with their customers individually to find the perfect shofar for each person, and will even encourage them to call or email if they have any questions at all about their shofar purchase. Not all shofars are created equal and come from quality manufacturers, so don't be shy to ask questions before you buy!
About the Author
Adam Barnett works for Studio Shofar Judaica & Gifts and hopes to help educate the judaica market to better understand judaica products in general. To discover more about the wonders of shofars first hand, visit the shofar shop at Studio Shofar Judaica & Gifts.
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