5 Tips for Shofar Shopping
One of Judaism's most iconic images, the shofar - a hollow horn with a drilled mouthpiece - has been a part of Jewish rituals for more than 3000 years. Its plaintive sound accompanies Rosh Hashanah's spiritual introspection; it was used at the coronation of an Israelite king in Biblical times; its full notes matched the Jews' battle cries both when they conquered Jericho thousands of years ago and reclaimed the Temple Mount in the Six Day War.
Owning your own shofar can be a great way to connect with the rich history surrounding its use, but there are several important points you should consider before you buy:
#1: Know Your Stuff
Different heritages have different shofars. Traditionally, a ram's horn shofar is favored by Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews and a Yemenite shofar is made from a long kudu horn. If you want to blow your shofar on Rosh Hashanah, it has to be a kosher horn: this means that no cuts or marks on the outside of the horn can penetrate through to the inside layer. Consider getting a shofar bag or stand to keep your shofar safe from any possible damage.
#2: Size Matters...
The length of a shofar is not measured from end-to-end. Instead, it's taken around the curve or curves of the horn, so bear that in mind when picking a length. Make sure to look for a measurement, not just quantifying adjectives like 'small' or 'extra-large'. The smaller the measurement range given for a particular type of shofar, the more likely you are to find the size you're looking for.
#3: ...and Bigger Might Be Better
When you're choosing a shofar, remember that the bigger shofars have bigger mouthpieces. Small mouthpieces are much harder to blow successfully, so it's a good idea to go for a larger horn, especially if you're new to shofar-blowing! Big shofarot also have more space in which air can vibrate, so you're more likely to be able to play different tones.
Unlike traditional woodwind instruments, shofars do not have many little holes that can produce different notes depending on opening and closing a hole. The shofar creates one solid sound but different notes can be obtained depending on your air pressure. Keep in mind that bigger shofars often produce deeper notes, while smaller ones have a higher pitch. Make sure to choose a shofar with a tone you love, as there's no way for you to change it!
#5: And to Finish...
Shofars can be left natural, or intensely polished to create an impressive sheen. You can also buy half-and-half shofars, where the bottom half is polished and the top has been left natural; this is more common with Yemenite shofarot. Additionally, the horns are an organic product, so all have slightly different natural coloration and markings. Each shofar is like a fingerprint, as there are no two shofars that are exactly the same. Look into the small details to ensure you get exactly what you are looking for!