The sound of the shofar

The Shofar produces 4 types of sounds: Teki’ah, Shevarim, Teru’ah and Teki’ah Gedolah. Each type is produced using a different blowing technique, and its unique sound symbolizes a special emotion that accompanies our appeal to God

Teki’ah
The Tekiah is a long sound, but due to the mouth’s position and breath length, most Ba’alei Teki’ah (Shofar blowers) end the long sound with an additional one, sliding to a higher tone. This is a Teki’ah ending with a Glissando, either as a deliberate ornamentation or due to technical difficulties. There is also a Teki’ah with a Glissando at its beginning.

Shevarim
Already in the Talmud (Babylonian 34:2) the Shevarim are described as groaning and moaning sounds. The Shevarim sound like a howl: they are composed of three short and sharp blows sounding like a moan.

Teru’ah
The Teru’ah is (according to Rabbi Yitzhak Arama) the sign of distress and sorrow. It is composed of shorter and more numerous beats than the Shavarim. The Ashkenazi Jews produce Staccato-like, rhythmic beats, while the Mizrachi Jews produce a kind of wavy tremolo, composed on a long sound (/like a chain). Normally, in order to produce the long sound’s vibrations, the Shofar Blower uses his tongue.

Teki’ah Gedolah
At the end of the blowing sequence: Teki’ah, Shevarim and Teru’ah (or TaShaT in short), it is customary to blow the Teki’ah Gedola (Grand Blowing): a very long sound, depending on the Blower’s blowing capability. As a rule, the Teki’ah Gedolah is three times as long as the Teki’ah.

Order of blowing:
According to the Mishnah, every Jew must hear nine Shofar sounds on Rosh HaShanah.
The word “Teru’ah” is mentioned three times in the Torah, and every “Teru’ah” should be preceded and followed by an (ordinary) “Teki’ah”. That is, making the order of Teki’ot three times: Teki’ah, Teru’ah, Teki’ah (TaRaT) – nine sounds.
In the fourth century, a third sound was added – Shevarim (sounding like sighs), because of a doubt concerning the exact sounds and their combination, thus, the number of sounds was increased from nine to thirty.
Consequently, we blow all the different combinations:
Teki’ah, Shevarim, Teru’ah, Teki’ah (TaShRaT) – three times.
Teki’ah, Shevarim, Teki’ah (TaShaT) – three times.
Teki’ah, Teru’ah, Teki’ah (TaRaT) – three times.

The Rambam writes about this:

Over the passage of the years and throughout the many exiles, doubt has been raised concerning the Teru’ah which the Torah mentions, to the extent that we do not know what it is: Does it resemble the wailing with which the women cry when they moan, or the sighs which a person who is distressed about a major matter will release repeatedly? Perhaps a combination of the two. Therefore, we fulfill all [these possibilities]. The crying refers to what we call Teru’ah. The repeated sighs refer to what we call three Shevarim. (Shofar 3:2)

Over the years, most communities added another thirty sounds during prayers – Malchuyot, Zichronot, Shofarot –ninety sounds altogether! And to round things up nicely – another ten sounds in order to reach one hundred.

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