Judaism

Shofar Collection

Since the High Holidays are approaching and it being the month of Elul, I thought it appropriate to share my shofar collection.

The shofar I was given as a Bar Mitzvah gift

I decided a few years ago that I wanted to begin collecting shofarot for aesthetic as well as ritual reasons.

The shofar standard is a sheep or goat rams horn.  It gives a loud, piercing sound that is somewhat high-pitched.  According to modern orthodox rabbis, the rams’ horn shofar is the preferred type of shofar to be blown during the holidays due to the ram being associated with Abraham and Issac.

My rams’ horn shofar is about 16″ along the outside curve.  It was given to me by my mom and aunts as a Bar Mitzvah gift. I’ve had this horn for over 15 years! Recently, I was given a new shofar to give to Ari when he is old enough to appreciate it. It’s about 13″ along the curve. It’s a very nice kid-sized shofar.

Ari's shofar

His shofar came from our former student rabbi, Nicole Luna while she was traveling in Israel.  Both of these shofarot make beautifully clear sounds and are quite resonant when played for Rosh Hashannah.

After the rams’ horn shofar, the most common and usually most impressive shofar is made from the kudu, a type of antelope. Called a “Yemenite” shofar, these shofarot can be anywhere from 30″ long to over 50″!

My Yemenite shofar

My Yemenite shofar is just over 33″. It was brought back to be sold in the Temple’s gift shop by a congregant family who used to travel to Israel a lot. I typically use this horn for Rosh Hashannah because it is more beautiful than my other shofarot, and also because it is much easier to get a good sound from it on the fly.

Beyond the rams’ horn and yemenite style of shofar, there exists a wide world of exotic shofars! A shofar can be made from any kosher animal with hollow horns, except cows.  For instance, you could have a shofar made from a Nubian ibex, or an impala or even a gemsbok.

Speaking of exotic shofarot, the final shofar in my collection (currently) is one I actually made. Like many ritual objects in Judaism, shofars can be made by anyone, not just a trained person or special company.   The idea for making this shofar came from a severe lack of funds and the desire to have an exotic looking shofar. I went online looking for a raw horn to buy so I could try making my own!  For brevity’s sake I’ll save the process of making a shofar for another post.

My homemade gemsbok shofar

It took me about a year to get around to actually doing something with the horn, but last month I finally finished my very own gemsbok shofar! I made a few mistakes while making it, so it ended up at a scant 18″. It’s extremely easy to blow, however due to the wide mouthpiece.  I may eventually try to blow this for the High Holidays, but for now it’s more experiment than ritual object.

Unless asked otherwise by the rabbi, I’ll probably blow the Yemenite shofar again this year for Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. Maybe next year I can teach some of the kids how to blow and we can have a shofarot band! Wouldn’t that be something? Bernie sure would have loved that…

For more information about shofarot , I highly recommended reading Michael Chusid’s blog, “Hearing Shofar“.

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10 thoughts on “Shofar Collection

    1. Maybe, once I’ve done it a few more times and really start to know what I’m doing. If you were interested in making your own, I’ll bet the Chabad near you runs a Shofar Factory program in Ann Arbor about this time every year.

  1. Also, does the animal that the horn comes from have to be slaughtered according to the laws of kashrut for the shofar to be kosher???

    1. There’s some debate as to whether or not the animal must be slaughtered in a kosher manner. The issue at hand is whether or not you are putting the shofar in your mouth or on your mouth. If you’re not placing it in your mouth, then the laws of kashrut don’t apply, just like you can wear leather regardless of how it was slaughtered. It’s certainly commendable to have a shofar made from a kosherly killed animal, but not required.

      Also, most exotic shofarot come from animals killed by hunting, which by definition is not a kosher form of slaughter. But as I said, these exotic types are generally acceptable by halacha.

  2. Hi, how did you come to acquire the raw materials to make the Gemsbok shofar? Somebody gave me a shofar today! =) A Yemenite one! And it has a grand tone to it.

    God bless,
    MarcusDS

    1. Marcus,
      I actually bought the raw horn on ebay from worldwidewildlifeproducts. Gemsbok horn is much harder to work with than “regular” horn, so I’d recommend a band saw to cut the tip rather than a dremmel. Also, mounting the horn into a drill press would make the drilling much easier. I messed up when I made mine and had to cut below the mistake and lost about an inch or so of length 🙂

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