The Production Process
Each horn has to go through 14 different stages of production to become a kosher and quality shofar. Let’s learn what the shofar production process is so that you know how to purchase shofars in a smart way
Shofar production process is a long and complex process, where knowledge, skill and experience occupy a central place. Here, at Kol Shofar, each horn undergoes 14 different stages, in order to get at the end of the process, the finest and highest quality Shofar, with a clear sound, excellent finish, and without unpleasant odors that most Shofars have.
What makes a Shofar kosher?
To better understand the shofar production process, one must first know what types of shofar there are and what is a kosher shofar? And how do you make a shofar that can fulfill the mitzvah and lead the crowd out of obligation on Rosh Hashanah.
- According to the Halacha, we are commanded to blow the Shofar of a ram. According to most Poskim, in the absence of a ram’s horn, all horns are kosher, except for a cow’s horn, owing of the Sin of the Golden Calf. (“An accuser may not act as a defender”).
The Rambam (Maimonides) is exceptional in this regard, ruling that only a Shofar made of ram’s horn is a kosher Shofar, and the use of all other horns is prohibited: “The shofar, which is sounded both on Rosh HaShanah and for the Yovel (Jubilee), is a bent ram’s horn. All Shofarot other than that of a ram are not valid.” (Hilchos Shofar, chapter 1, halacha 1)
- Another stipulation is that the horn be free of cracks and fractures. There must be no air leak anywhere, except for the broad side of the horn – where the sound comes out.
The Shofar must be whole and intact, without any additions or defects. epairing any crack or fracture with glue or any other substance is forbidden – a Shofar that had been repaired is disqualified. “A Shofar that was split and was glued together, is not valid; If he glued together broken pieces of a Shofar it is not valid.” (Rosh HaShanah 3:5)
In recent years, the market has been flooded with non-kosher Shofars made in Morocco and China, glued together in a way only experts can detect. Therefore, it is strongly recommended to purchase a Shofar only from someone you know and trust completely.
- Silver-plating or any other coating also disqualifies the Shofar, lest its original sound might change. At our workshop, we also produce silver-plated Shofars, used mainly for decorative purposes and are accompanied by a clear warning, saying this Shofar is not kosher for use in a synagogue.
- The minimum size of a shofar is “above a measure (shi’ur)”, with the “shi’ur” size being a fistful, so that everyone can see the Shofar when it is blown. “Sufficient that one may hold the Shofar in one’s hands visibly [protruding] on either side. (Rambam, Hilchos Shofar, chapter 1, halacha 5)
The production stages each horn goes through:
. After reviewing the main characteristics of a kosher shofar, we will move on to examine the production process more closely.
Sorting the horns:
The process begins by selecting and sorting the raw material – i.e., the horns. This requires someone with a sharp and skilled eye, who can decide if a particular horn is suitable for making a Shofar, and of which type and sound.
The horns consist of two parts:
the bone, which is actually a part of the animal’s skull – the male part. And the horn, which is a sort of shell that surrounds the bone – the female part. After the bone is removed, you get a horn two thirds of which is hollow (the broad side), while the top third is made of keratin (the narrow side).
It is interesting to note that all animals that have horns are kosher animals. Although not all horns can be used for making Shofars – there are certain animals, such as the reindeer, whose horns are made entirely of bone, nevertheless the deer is a kosher animal.
Most Shofars are made of the horns of a ram – an adult male sheep.
There are other horns used for making Shofars, such as the Kudu’s (a large antelope found in the southern parts of Africa), goat’s and ibex’s horns, and other exotic horns from different parts of the world.
Shipping horns from different parts of the world to Israel is expensive and logistically complicated, as horns are not “off-the-shelf” products you can simply order. Horns are imported from outside the country, since there are not enough horns of various sizes in Israel. After picking the horns, the bone is removed, and they are then sterilized under veterinary supervision. It is important to note that animals are not killed for their horns, the horns are a by-product of slaughtering animals for food.
Straightening the Shofar:
The first stage of work consists of straightening the narrow side of the horn, which is made of keratin, in order to drill and reach the hollow part of the horn. We straighten the horn by heating it until it softens, and then using a press to straighten its curvature and allowing it to cool down. This is a very intricate stage, requiring high skill and sensitivity, since using too much strength might pierce the horn or break it.
Each horn is unique, and therefore it takes a great skill to identify each horn, taking into account its flexibility, depth, thickness and many other characteristics, in order to achieve the best results without disqualifying it.
Making the mouthpiece:
The mouthpiece is the heart of the Shofar, and has to match the mouth and lungs of the person blowing the Shofar.
Making the mouthpiece is a complex and delicate task, that involves many trade secrets. We produce Shofars with different mouthpieces – wide, round, narrow, elliptical ones and more – to achieve the best match for the Ba’al Teki’ah.
Many Shofar owners bring their Shofars to us, and ask that we adjust them to their demands, including tuning the Shofar sound.
Drilling into the horn cavity:
Drilling the Shofar is also a highly skilled act – you have to locate the hollow part of each horn and drill it accordingly. The longer the drill hole, the harder and more complicated the drilling. ny wrong movement might cause the drill to pierce the Shofar and disqualify it. Some Shofars require drilling holes of 30 cm and more.
The next step in the process is polishing the shofar, here you decide what its appearance will be. Each Shofar undergoes 5 different sanding stages: rough, medium and delicate, plus two stages of brushing, medium and delicate Then, the Shofar goes through two stages of polish by flapwheels, that give the Shofar its shining appearance.
Some Shofars keep their natural texture, while others are polished until they are completely smooth. Anyone can choose the amount of polish they like.
Tuning the Sound of the Shofar:
There are many variables in the horn that affect the sound of the shofar, such as the size of the horn, its thickness, the size of the resonator box, the length of the bore and more. At Kol Shofar, we specialize in tuning and improving the sound of the Shofar. Thanks to our ample knowledge and skill, we know what is the best sound your Shofar can make and how to produce it.
Many people bring their Shofars to us, and ask us to adjust them and improve their sound. Now that you know what the shofar manufacturing process is, when you come to be interested in where to buy a shofar, you will be able to better appreciate its quality. For more information about shofar