Shofar History and Tradition

The shofar is mentioned in the Torah. An instruction manual, straight from the sources.


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This article is excerpted with permission from Entering the High Holy Days, published by the Jewish Publication Society.

The Torah prescribes the sounding of the shofar but does not say when or how this ritual is to be performed. It is rabbinic Judaism that supplies these details as outlined in the Mishnah:

The following is the order of the blessings: One recites the Patriarchs, the Might of God, the Sanctity of the Name, including Kingship verses in it, and does not sound the shofar; the Sanctity of the Day and sounds the shofar, remembrance and sounds the shofar, shofarot and sounds the shofar… so taught Rabbi Yohanan ben Nuri. Rabbi Akiba said: If he does not sound the shofar with the saying of the kingship verses, why say them? Rather … he includes the kingship verses with the sanctification of the day and sounds the shofar, remembrance and sounds the shofar, shofarot and sounds the shofar. (Talmud, Tractate Rosh Hashanah 4:5).

The reference here is to the main service of Rosh Hashanah, which was, in the rabbinic period, the morning (Shaharit) service. At some later time, this practice was changed, so that the sounding of the shofar and the reading of biblical verses connected with it were postponed until quite late in the day. The rabbis explained this postponement as follows:rosh hashanah

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Rabbi Dr. Reuven Hammer is a former President of the International Rabbinical Assembly, he is one of the founders of the Masorti Movement in Israel and is currently Head of the Masorti Beth Din in Israel.

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