Shofars through the ages (Shofar History)
“All you people of the world, you who live on the earth,
Polishing a ram's horn shofar. ©Used with permission.
Did You Know?
In the Spanish Diaspora, Jewish shofars were flat and straight with a low pitch. This was because in the past Jews were not permitted to carry or play the shofar and had to hide their horns underneath their clothing. The Shephardic communities have preserved this straight, low pitched rams horn shofar.
The significance of the shofar can be traced back to the very foundations of the Jewish nation. First mentioned when the Israelites gathered at Mt Sinai (Exodus 19:16-19), the shofar has played an important role throughout Biblical history. The walls of Jericho crumbled to the sound of the priests rams' horns shofars (Joshua 6:4) and Jesus' return will be marked with the “sound of the shofar” (1 Corinthians 15:52).
The Jewish shofar (sometimes misspelt as shophar) was sounded at the Jubilee Year and Feast of Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24). It was used for military purposes including declaring war (Nehemiah 4:20), to sound an alarm (Ezekiel 33:3) and to announce victory (1 Samuel13:3). The Israelites also used to blow the shofar events and processions (1 Chronicles 15:28) and as an accompaniment in music and festivals (Psalm 98:6)
The shofar was sounded at the coronation of kings (2 Samuel 15:10), including declaring God as King of Kings (Psalm 47:5-6). It is also strongly associated with the voice of God (Exodus 19:16-19 and Zechariah 9:14).
Today, the shofar (also known as a Jewish horn) still plays a significant role in Israel and amongst Jewish communities worldwide. Jews play the shofar to welcome the Shabbat and to announce the new year and new moon. It is central to the celebration of the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and is sounded on Yom Kippur to mark the end of fasting. The shofar is often sounded at Jewish weddings and as part of official Israeli government events.
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