Thursday, February 8, 2007

Shofar in National Liberation


A Shofar in the Yemenite Jewish style. A shofar (Heb.: שופר) is a ram's horn that is used as a musical instrument for religious purposes.

It is used on Judaism's high holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The shofar originated in Israel for Jewish callings.

The Shofar may be the horn of any kosher animal, except that of a cow or calf in deference to the biblical golden calf incident. Though there is nothing inherently wrong with using a cow's horns, it is not for the benefit to the Jewish people to remind God of such indiscretions when He is sitting in judgment.

The sounds

The tekiah and teruah sounds mentioned in the Bible were respectively bass and treble. The tekiah was a plain deep sound ending abruptly; the teruah, a trill between two tekiahs. These three sounds, constituting a bar of music, were rendered three times: first in honor of God's Kingship; next to recall the near sacrifice of Isaac, in order to cause the congregation to be remembered before God; and a third time to comply with the precept regarding the shofar.

Ten appropriate verses from the Bible are recited at each repetition, which ends with a benediction. Over time doubts arose as to the correct sound of the teruah. The Talmud is uncertain whether it means a moaning/groaning or a staccato beat sound. Shevarim was supposed to be composed of three connected short sounds; the teruah of nine very short notes divided into three disconnected or broken sequences of three notes each. The duration of the teruah is equal to that of the shevarim; and the tekiah is half the length of either. This doubt as to the nature of the real teruah, whether it was simply a moan, a staccato or both, necessitated two near-repetitions to make sure of securing the correct sound.

The sequence of the shofar blowing is thus tekiah, shevarim-teruah, tekiah; tekiah, shevarim, tekiah; tekiah, teruah, and then a final blast of "tekiah gadola" which means "big tekiah," held as long as possible. This formula is repeated twice more, making thirty sounds for the series, with tekiah being one note, shevarium three, and teruah nine. This series of thirty sounds is repeated twice more, making ninety sounds in all. The trebling of the series is based on the mention of teruah three times in connection with the seventh month (Lev. xxiii, xxv; Num. xxix), and also on the above-mentioned division of the service into malchiyot, zichronot, and shofarot. In addition to these three repetitions, a single formula of ten sounds is rendered at the close of the service, making a total of 100 sounds. According to the Sephardic tradition, a full 101 blasts are sounded, corresponding to the 100 cries of the mother of Sisera, the Cannanite general who did not make it home after being assassinated by the biblical Yael (Judges 5:28). One cry is left to symbolize the legitimate love of a mother mourning her son.

Shofar in National Liberation

During the Ottoman and the British occupation of Jerusalem, Jews were not allowed to sound the shofar at the Western Wall. After the Six Day War, Rabbi Shlomo Goren famously approached the wall and sounded the shofar.