Types of Shofars
Where do the horns come from? How many types are there? And is there a difference in sound? Let’s put things in order
All horns we use for making Shofars are a by-product of animal flesh eating. The great bulk of ram’s horns comes from Morocco, after Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice), when it is customary for each family to feast on lamb meat or donate it to the poor. Animals are not raised or slaughtered for their horns.
Ram’s horn Shofar The ram is the adult male sheep, and we are commanded to blow its horn lechatchilah (to begin with), therefore this should be our first choice. The use of the ram’s horn originates in the story of the Binding of Isaac, when Abraham bound the ram caught in the thicket instead of his eldest son. Most congregations and synagogues nowadays use this type of Shofar.
Ram’s horn Shofar, Sephardi-Ashkenazi style: The most common Shofar, with a long, straightened handle. Due to a relatively long drill hole, it has a high and sharp tone.
Ram’s horn Shofar, Yemenite style: Made according to the Rambam’s ruling, that the original shape of the horn must not be changed. This kind of Shofar is not straightened, but rather cut next to the hollow part of the horn and has a short drill hole, therefore it has a low and deep sound. These Shofars are usually not ornamented externally, leaving the horn in its natural state.
Moroccan Shofar: A flat ram’s horn Shofar. Its production process is complex and takes a long time. It originated in the days of the Spanish Inquisition, when the Jews had to conceal their religion and customs, and would flatten the Shofar, to hide it more easily under their clothes. Following the Spanish Expulsion, some Jews arrived at North Africa, while others reached Eastern Europe. A vast Shofar industry flourished in Morocco, hence the name, although it can also be found in Jewish communities in Poland, Germany and elsewhere.
Shofars approved by Badatz:
These are ram’s horn Shofars, that undergo all production and control stages like the other Shofars, but the drilling stage is done in the presence of Badatz Supervisors (Mashgichim). The Mashgichim observe the drilling process and make sure no Shofar is disqualified. Afterward, using a strong lamp and a magnifying glass, they examine each Shofar meticulously. The Shofars that pass the examination successfully are affixed with a bar code and a hologram (to prevent counterfeiting). The percentage of Shofars that fail the examination is close to zero, and the Mashgichim are pleasantly surprised each and every time. Naturally, the whole process of checking and inviting the Mashgichim increases the price of the Shofar somewhat.
The kudu is a species of antelope found in the southern parts of the African continent. Its horn can reach a length of about 150 cm and is impressive in size, color and sound. Yemenite Jews used to blow this horn, since kudu’s rams were easier to get than ram’s horns. This horn has a deep sound due to its large volume of air, and can produce different tones (usually 2-3 or more).
Oryx Shofar The oryx is a species of antelope, common in most parts of Africa, and formerly also in Israel (the oryx is currently being reintroduced into the wild in Israel). The oryx Shofar is black colored and straight, with a long drill hole and a trumpet-like sound. Although kosher according to Halacha, as it is straight and not bent, there is a dispute concerning its validity for performing the mitzvah.
The ibex is a species of mountain goat, common in a large habitat that includes Israel. Being a protected animal, ibex’s horns are rare, and can be obtained only after its death of natural causes. The horn itself is impressive and exceptionally beautiful. The sound of the Shofar is also exceptional and resembles a deep-sounding trumpet.
Everyone is invited to choose a Shofar according their tradition and interests, out of our large and varied Shofar selection.
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