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A couple of months ago, MyJewishLearning.com asked me for a shofar. More specifically, they asked me to make a shofar, following the advice in their article, How to Make A Shofar.
An odd request. My experience with “workshopping” chiefly concerned college-level writing courses–though I once took a middle-school shop class–and I’ve never had even the slightest run-in with a ram. Still, I agreed to give it a shot. To strengthen my entirely uncalloused hand, I enlisted my wife, who adores home-improvement projects, and my young kids, who have, in their time at preschool and Jewish day school, created an ungodly amount of Jewish-themed arts and crafts.
Who knew? Ram’s horns smell bad.
Where Do Ram’s Horns Come From, Mommy?
“How to Make A Shofar,” which was originally part of The Jewish Catalog, the 1973 volume that bills itself as a Jewish “do-it-yourself kit,” suggests that a ram’s horn can be obtained from a slaughterhouse or a butcher shop. So I wrote to Larry Levine’s Kosher Market, in Chelsea, Massachusetts. The response was a terse, “Sorry I have no means of obtaining it.” I quickly answered, “Any chance you know someone who’d be able to help me?” Still haven’t received a reply.
I wrote to other members of the meat-slaughtering industry, and they ignored me as well. Eventually, a shofar-making-friend of my editor told me about a Florida-based taxidermist who was hawking ram’s horns; I sent an email and got, believe it or not, no response. (Question: Do people who slaughter and butcher animals have less time than the rest of us for online communication?)
So I turned to eBay. It wasn’t long before my 21-inch horn arrived from Worldwide Wildlife Products in St. Augustine, Florida. $27.84. Bargain!
Our Shofar Stinks
The brown curly ram’s horn, a rough thing with a significant crack on the top, was odiferous in the extreme. Pick it up for a sniff and you got a profoundly concentrated snort of what a smelly beast a living breathing ram must be. But in fact, the smell got worse–during the boiling. “How to Make A Shofar” suggests boiling your ram’s horn “for at least two hours and probably as long as five.” The boiling is supposed to soften the cartilage inside the ram’s horn for easy picking.
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