The Shofar Buying Guide That Will Blow You Away
What Is A Shofar?
A Shofar is a very special religious instrument with a rich and fascinating history that goes back to the times of the Bible. Made from the hollowed horn of an animal from the Bovidae family, typically a ram's, Shofars remain one of the oldest unchanged instruments still used in modern times. You can find frequent mentions of them in the Bible, since ancient Shofars were mainly blown for religious or nationalistic reasons such as heralding in the New Month (Rosh Chodesh), declaring war, or celebrating victories, though they were also often used by the Levites of the Holy Temple as one of their musical instruments.
Today, modern Shofars play a slightly different role in Jewish life than their biblical predecessors. No longer used for declarations of war, today's Shofars are mostly blown during services around the Jewish High Holidays, especially Rosh Hashanah, when blowing the Shofar is such an important feature of the holiday's services that the Torah's name for Rosh Hashanah is Yom Teruah - a Day of Blowing. It is the Shofar's mighty and iconic sound that makes this holiday so inspiring, and hearing it on the New Year serves the beautiful purpose of awakening that part inside us that longs to connect us to our faith and wash away the sins of the previous year so that we may welcome the coming year with a clean and fresh slate.
Are There Different Types Of Shofars?
Yes! There are quite a few, in fact. Shofar customs vary from region to region, so depending on your heritage, the Shofar you choose may be different from your neighbor down the street. That's not to say that you can't get yourself a Yemenite Shofar if you're Ashkenazi, but typically you'll find that most Jewish communities generally prefer one type of Shofar over any others.
In most cases, the majority of mainstream Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews prefer using short, slightly curved goat or ram horn Shofars, while Moroccan Jews typically favor ram's horn Shofars that are flatter and straighter with carved mouthpieces. Yemenite Jews, however, famously tend to use the impressively large and spiraled horn of a kudu, a large breed of antelope native to southern and western Africa. There are even exotic Shofars such as eland horn Shofars and gemsbok oryx horn Shofars that are perfect for those who want a Shofar that's unusual and striking but still traditionally permissible for ritual use.
What Makes A Shofar "Kosher?"
Apart from coming from a member of the Bovidae family, there are a few other things a Shofar must have in order to meet the qualifications required for a kosher Shofar. For clarity's sake, we will be classifying the word "kosher" in this context to mean a Shofar that is suitable for ritual use on Rosh Hashanah according to the most widely accepted traditional orthodox rulings.
In order for a Shofar to obtain a kosher certification, it will need to undergo a very complicated manufacturing process and cannot have any cracks or holes that may affect the quality of its sound, though superficial scratches are not an issue. Additionally, many rabbinical authorities hold that Shofars that are to be used for ritual purpose shouldn't be painted or plated although they can be decoratively carved.
The process of making a kosher Shofar is a lengthy and incredibly difficult one and only a small percentage of harvested animal horns actually make it past the initial quality inspection stage. Many horns are disqualified early on for being damaged or otherwise disfigured. Those that do proceed to the next stage go through a complex and extremely thorough cleaning and preparation process to ready them for religious use.
Usually, most people will choose to use either a kudu or ram's horn Shofar, though there are many other options as well since Shofars can be made from the horn of just about any type of qualified animal other than a bull's, which are not considered acceptable. The reason for this is because while bulls are part of the Bovidae family, which includes cattle, goats, sheep, and antelopes, bull horns are seen as a symbolic nod to the sin of the Golden Calf and therefore shouldn't be used.
It is also worth noting that there are two basic types of animal horns and only some are suited to be made into Shofars. Some animals, like deer, giraffes, and rhinos, grow horns called antlers which are made of solid bone, and although these horns can theoretically be hollowed out and turned into a musical instrument, Shofars made from antlers are not considered permissible. Bovidae horns, on the other hand, are essentially sheaths of keratin (the same stuff as your hair and nails) covering a core of solid bone tissue which can later be carefully removed to leave behind only the naturally hollow horn.
Shofars From Israel
As one of the most significant and enduring ritual objects in traditional Judaism, Shofars are incredible treasures to own and buying one is an investment you will never regret making, especially if you buy a Shofar from Israel! After all, Israel's famous Shofar manufacturers are among the finest in the world so what better way to guarantee that the Shofar you bring home will be worthy of your holiday celebrations than to obtain it from the best in the business?
Just check out all the great options we have below, we're sure you'll find something special that will take your breath away!
As the most popular go-to choice for Rosh Hashanah, "Classic" Shofars are ones made from the horn of a ram. These Ram's Horn Shofars can come in a variety of sizes, colors, and finishes ranging from extra-small Shofars to jumbo sized options each patterned with their own unique colorations. They can be left in their natural, organic state or polished to a brilliant shine, or you can even get a Shofar that has one side polished and the other left natural so you can enjoy the beauty of both. If you're looking for a strictly kosher Shofar, a Classic Shofar may be a great choice for you!
Easily tying with ram's horn Shofars in terms of popularity, Yemenite Shofars are undeniably impressive. A great choice to use for one's Rosh Hashanah services, Yemenite Kudu Horn Shofars, with their majestically long, spiraling shape and distinctive sound, are remarkable instruments that are truly special. Kudu Shofars, as with any other Shofar, come in a wide variety of lengths, finishes, and colors, making it easy to pick out the perfect one for you! They are also incredibly attractive, so not only will having a Kudu Shofar make your Rosh Hashanah celebrations even more spectacular, but you'll also get to have an awe-inspiring instrument that you can proudly put on display all year long!
Oryx and Eland Horn Shofars
Not interested in a ram's horn or kudu horn Shofar? Not a problem! Shofars made from eland and oryx horns make excellent alternatives as these Shofars both possess beautifully exotic appearances yet are still very traditional.
Which do you think is more attractive - the perfectly polished and elegant Eland Horn Shofar on the left or the fascinating wild beauty of the Gemsbok Oryx Shofar on the right?
Alternatively, if you're interested in becoming the proud owner of a truly unique Shofar that not only sounds amazing but is also a visually appealing work of art, then maybe you should take a peek at our breathtaking Decorated Shofars! We carry an unparalleled selection of beautifully adorned Shofars made by local and leading Israeli artists featuring delicately hand-painted scenes, impressive silver-plated designs, intricately detailed carvings, and tasteful leather bindings that bring an indescribable and mesmerizing element to one's Shofar. In addition to making wonderfully thoughtful holiday gifts for you or your loved ones, these decorated Shofars offer an effortless way to enjoy traditional ceremonial art and keep your Shofar on display all year round!
There's no doubt about it, if you really want to show off your spectacular new treasure, a fabulous Israeli Shofar Stand is the way to go! Check out our awesome selection of incredible Shofar stands to find the right one for you! Whether you'd like something simple and practical like a transparent acrylic stand or bold and eye-catching like one of our beautifully hand-paint stands made by celebrated Israeli artist Yair Emanuel, we know that we have something for everyone. Find yours today so you can enjoy keeping your family Shofar on display all year round!
Well, dear friends, that's it, we've finally reached the end of our little Shofar Guide! We hope you've enjoyed reading about Shofars and that this guide will be helpful to you as the New Year approaches! Thank you for letting us be a part of your holiday preparations and we wish you all a big Shana Tova U'Metuka from Israel!
Until the next time,
The Judaica WebStore Team