The Shofar is a horn taken from a kosher animal that was used in ancient times by the Jewish people to gather or warn the people, announce the new month. Nowadays the Shofar is used in synagogues on certain Jewish festivals. Its main use today is on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. It is an obligation to hear the Shofar blown on Rosh Hashanah.
The Bible, when talking of Rosh Hashanah states, "It shall be for you a day of sounding the Shofar" (Numbers 29:1). This is the earliest source of the obligation to sound the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah.
Rav Saadiah Gaon brings ten reasons for blowing the Shofar on Rosh Hashanah. The most well-known reason is that Rosh Hashanah is the commemoration of G-d's creation of the world. In effect, the Jewish people "crown" G-d on Rosh Hashanah. In the same way that trumpets are sounded at a king's coronation, the Shofar is blown on Rosh Hashanah.
Rambam is of the opinion that the Shofar is to awaken the Jewish people from their spiritual slumber. It is meant to rouse them and cause them to return to G-d.
Every single Jew, be they men, women or children. The message of the Shofar is relevant for every Jew at every stage in life.
One can hear the Shofar in any local synagogue where it is blown after the reading from the Bible. In the case of the home-bound, the Shofar can be blown by one who knows how to blow one.
Shofarot can often be purchased at Judaica stores. They can also be purchased online. An advantage of shopping online for a Shofar is the ease with which one can compare prices. Also, many times before the autumnal festival of Rosh Hashanah there are many sales on Shofarot online so it is worthwhile shopping around to get an idea of prices and then taking advantage of these Shofar sales.
The Shofar is played the same way a trumpet or bugle is. Meaning, close your lips tightly and blow through them making them vibrate. Many blow the Shofar from the side of the mouth.
- T'keeyah is a long, deep staccato sound.
- Shvarim are three staccato blasts. The duration of the three blasts together should be equal to that of a T'keeyah.
- True-ah is long wailing sound. There are two main variants of the True-ah. One is nine separate short blasts, in rapid sequence. The other is a single long call with nine wavering ululations.
- T'keeyah G'dolah is a long T'keeyah that goes on as long as one can manage. It comes at the end of a series of calls. It is also used at the end of the day of Yom Kippur.