The shofar is an animal horn we blow like a trumpet. It is usually a ram's horn, but a shofar can be made from the horn of any kosher animal except a cow. Today the use of a long and beautiful antelope horn is popular. Unlike a trumpet, the shofar has no mouthpiece. It is difficult to blow. Shofar blowers spend many hours practicing before Rosh Hashana.

The shofar blower should be someone who is admired in the community, a person who is well liked and does good deeds. The shofar blower is called the ba'al tekiah. Another person stands next to the ba'al tekiah and calls out the notes.

Click on the name of each blast to hear a wav file of it. There are three kinds of notes. The tekiah is a single blast. The shevarim is a set of three blasts. The teruah is a set of nine very short blasts. During the shofar service the ba'al tekiah blows three notes in different combinations as they are called out. At the end of the shofar service, a very long tekiah, the tekiah gedolah is blown.

When it is time to blow the shofar, the whole congregation stands. They recited the blessing for the mitzvah of hearing the shofar :

Baruch atah, Adonai elohainu, melech haolam, ahshair keedshanu bimetzvotav vtzevanu leeshmoah kol shofar

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who makes us holy with mitzvot and calls us to hear the sound of the shofar.

Baruch atah, Adonai elohainu, melech haolam, shehecheyanu vikeemanu v'heegeanu lozzmon hazeh.

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this season.

There are many reasons why we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. According to Maimondies, the great Jewish scholar, we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah to say, "Wake up! Wake up, everyone who is asleep! Remember God, your Creator! Instead of going around doing things that are not important or worthwhile, take some time to think about what you can do to make yourself into a better person. Give up doing bad things!"

Rabbi Saadia Gaon gave some reasons for blowing the shofar :

  • Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world.
  • The shofar reminds us of the ram that Abraham sacrificed in the place of his son Isaac.
  • When God gave us the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, the Israelites heard the sound of a shofar. The shofar reminds us that God gives us laws and rules to obey.
  • The shofar is the call of redemption. The shofar reminds us that God redeems the Jewish people.
  • Other names for Rosh Hashanah: Yom HaZikaron , Yom Hadin