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Symbols and Rituals: The Shofar

Return to the InterfaithFamily Guide to the High Holy Days.

The Shofar

Children blowing the shofar

The most famous ritual object connected with the High Holy Days is a ram’s horn. The ram’s horn, or shofar in Hebrew, is an ancient musical instrument that is blown like a trumpet. During synagogue services for Rosh Hashanah, there are several points during which someone will sound the shofar according to a prescribed series of blasts. On Yom Kippur the shofar is not sounded, except to mark the holy day’s conclusion. Blowing the shofar

Shofars come in various sizes and shapes, though they’re always curved. People who are good at playing horns usually can figure out how to get a strong sound out of a shofar, and in many synagogues different community members volunteer to do some of the shofar blowing.

The sound of the shofar is memorable and unique. For many people, it evokes of a variety of feelings. Its origins go back to ancient rituals in Jerusalem. In antiquity, shofars were also used to send urgent messages across great distances. Learn more about shofars and videos of people blowing them here.


The InterfaithFamily Guide to the High Holy Days is also available in PDF. 


Hebrew for "Head of the Year," the Jewish New Year. With Yom Kippur, known as the High Holy Days. Hebrew for "Day of Atonement," the final of ten Days of Awe that begin with Rosh Hashanah. Occurs during the fall and is marked by a 24-hour fast. One of the most important Jewish holidays. Derived from the Greek word for "assembly," a Jewish house of prayer. Synagogue refers to both the room where prayer services are held and the building where it occurs. In Yiddish, "shul." Reform synagogues are often called "temple." A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.
Simple musical instrument made from a ram's horn that is blown in synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as well as each morning after daily services during the Hebrew month of Elul (the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur).

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