"Then you shall transmit a blast on the horn; in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, the day of Yom Kippur, you shall have the horn sounded throughout the land...And proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." (Leviticus 25)
There aren’t too many musical instruments associated with the Hebrew religion. As a matter of fact, the only one that is known to have survived to this day is the Shofar.
What is it?
In ancient times, most often it was the horn of ram, ibex or kudu or any other horn growing animal as long it was kosher. Ideally, the horn was to be large, at least 3 hand lengths. According to the Talmud, one was not allowed to alter it in any way since the tone might be affected. This included adding holes to it, steaming or boiling it, or introducing anything else such as gold or silver plating to enhance the sound. Estimates are that Shofars have been used in the Jewish religion for over 5,000 years.
Play That Funky Music Rabbi!
Many references are made in the Bible about the blowing of the Shofar. The most notable of these was that it was the blast of the Shofar that brought down the house during the Battle of Jericho. The Dead Sea Scrolls seem to indicate that Shofars were used to help put the fear of God into one’s enemies during battle.
Hebrew folklore also indicates that the Shofar was used to implore God to bring rain during times of drought and serve as a warning blast to the people when a disaster was looming on the horizon.
Today, the blowing of the Shofar is pretty much restricted to the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and at the end of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). As a matter fact, the blowing of the Shofar is the only specific commandment made for Rosh Hashanah.
In particular, on the “Day of Sounding” there are three traditional calls emitted by the Shofar.. Although each community of Jews has altered the order of these somewhat, they will all be sounded to remind followers of the power and mercy of God. They are as follows:
The Tekiah – a long straight blast of the horn that represents the coronation of God as King.
The Shevarim - three medium, wailing sounds that represent the cry of the Jewish heart as it failed to grow to its potential.
The Teruah - 9 quick blasts in short succession that serves as an alarm clock to Jews to not abandon their faith and to try and pull the wool over the eyes of God.
Other Noders Sound Their Horn
arieh says re The Shofar: Oh, The shofar is also blown after Shacharit (morning prayers) every weekday in Elul (the month before Rosh Hashanah) - sort of to remind people to put their houses in order before the Day of Judgement.
Imprecation says re The Shofar: You missed one sounding--everyone's favorite, the tekiah gedolah, like a tekiah but held as long as the breath lasts.
benjya says you could also mention that rosh hashanah is often referred to in the prayers as "yom teruah" - "the day of blowing (the shofar)" - showing how
/me puts on his Jewish accent - "Who knew?"