The Shofar

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The shofar is ram's horn, in a rudimentary form and is blown on Rosh Hashana. It sounds something like a trumpet. However, unlike a trumpet, the shofar has no mouthpiece. One of the most important Mitzvot is hearing the 100 sounds coming from the shofar in the synagogue each day of Rosh Hashana.

Additionally, on the occasion of each festival and joyous occasion the Torah promises God's special guidance: "And in the day of your gladness... you shall blow on the trumpets...
that they may be to you for a remembrance before your God." The blowing of the trumpets is part of the festivity, part of the expression of the special hashgaha of God over the nation
of Israel.

There are three different types of shofar sounds:
Tekiah, a 3-second sustained note;
Shevarim, three 1-second notes rising in tone,
Teruah, a series of short, staccato notes extending over a period of about 3 seconds;
There is also a Tekiah Gedolah (literally, "big Tekiah"), the final blast, which lasts longer than the regular Tekiah.


The Blower :
It is very difficult to blow the shofar. A Ba'al tokay-ah, (Shofar blower) may spend many hours practicing before Rosh Hashana. The Ba'al tokay-ah should be someone who is respected in the community, a person who is well liked and does good deeds. Another person stands next to the Ba'al tokay-ah, and calls out the order of the Tekiyos. You are supposed to stand during the Tekiyos, but more important, it is forbidden to talk from the time of the first Bracha (blessing) of the shofar until after the final shofar blasts at the end of Mussaf.

The Torah gives no specific reason why we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana. According to the great Jewish scholar, Rambam (Maimondies), we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashana to say, "Wake up! Wake up, everyone who is asleep! Remember 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!"

Apparently we have only one source to guide us in understanding the biblical significance of the 'Yom teru'ah' - the 'Parshat HaHatzotzrot', the portion dealing with the trumpets. Here is a citation from it:

"And if you go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresses you, then you shall blow an alarm with the trumpets ("veharei'otem b'hatzotzrot"); and you shall be remembered
("veniz'kartem") before the Lord your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, you shall blow with the trumpets ("ut'ka'tem b'hatzotzrot") over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a remembrance ("l'zikaron") before your God - I am the Lord your God."[Bamidbar 10:9-10].
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