How To Make A Shofar

Step by step instructions, materials not included.

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Reprinted with permission from The Jewish Catalogue: A Do-It-Yourself Kit, edited by Richard Siegel, Michael Strassfeld and Susan Strassfeld, published by the Jewish Publication Society.

The shofar can be made of the horn of a ram, antelope, gazelle, goat, or Rocky Mountain goat. These hornsare not solid bone, but contain cartilage, which can be removed. The word shofar means "hollow." The above animals are kosher, since they have spilt hooves and chew their cud.

 

Rams horns can be obtained from slaughterhouses. Butcher storeowners may be able to get them from their suppliers.

Step 1

Boil the shofar in water for at least two hours and probably as long as five. A bit of washing soda added to the water facilitates later cleaning. The cartilage can be pulled out with the aid of a pick. If the horns are small, the cartilage can be removed in about half an hour.

Step 2

With a soft wire, measure how far the hollow of the shofar extends. Measure one inch farther on the outside and cut the tip off with a coping saw or hacksaw. The horn should completely dry before cutting.

Step 3

Drill a 1/8”hole with an electric drill from the sawed-off end until the bit reaches the hollow of the horn.

Step 4

Using various bits from an electric modeling set (we use the Dremel M #2 Moto- Tool Set, which looks like a light-weight electric hand drill comes with about 24 attachments), carve a bell-shaped mouthpiece at the end of the shofar, similar to the one on a trumpet. Smooth the edges of the mouthpiece with the electric model tool. The mouthpiece may require modification in size and shape for each shofar and person. An experienced shofar-blower or trumpet player can test out the shofars.

The electric modeling tool can also be used to carve designs on the outer edge of the shofar as well as on the body of the shofar. There must be no holes in the sides of the shofar and no paint or anything added to the shofar.

Thus far we have not been successful in reshaping the curves of the shofar. We used them as they came naturally.

With the electric tool, the outside and inside surfaces of the shofar can be smoothed. We do not smooth over shofars; they are rough and uneven. However, when blown properly, the shofars sound beautiful.

Rabbi Michael Strassfeld

Michael Strassfeld is the rabbi of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Manhattan, co-author of The First Jewish Catalog, The Second Jewish Catalog, A Night of Questions: A Passover Haggadah, and author of The Jewish Holidays: A Guide and Commentary.

Sharon M. Strassfeld is co-author of the Jewish Catalog series.

Richard Siegel

Richard Siegel is the Interim Director of the School of Jewish Communal Service at HUC-JIR. He worked for 28 years at the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, the last 16 as Executive Director.