Sound of shofar rings in Rosh Hashanah

By Angelita WilliamsSeptember 15, 2023

Sound of shofar rings in Rosh Hashanah
1 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Morgana Biddix, Spc. Taylor Anderson, Spc. Mark Blank and Spc. William Thompson attempt to make music with shofars they created with Rabbi Benzion Shemtov in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Angelita Williams) VIEW ORIGINAL
Sound of shofar rings in Rosh Hashanah
2 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Rabbi Benzion Shemtov provides a special lesson about the traditions and rules regarding the making of a shofar during a recent service at the Prosser Village Chapel Annex. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Angelita Williams) VIEW ORIGINAL
Sound of shofar rings in Rosh Hashanah
3 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – The dust flies as Spc. Taylor Anderson and Spc. William Thompson sand and smooth the shofars they created with Rabbi Benzion Shemtov in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Angelita Williams) VIEW ORIGINAL
Sound of shofar rings in Rosh Hashanah
4 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Rabbi Benzion Shemtov guides Spc. Mark Blank, Morgana Biddix and Spc. William Thompson in the making of a shofar during a special service at the Prosser Village Annex to prepare for Rosh Hashanah. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Angelita Williams) VIEW ORIGINAL
Sound of shofar rings in Rosh Hashanah
5 / 5 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Spc. Mark Blank transforms his shofar with a layer of polyurethane during a special class presented by Rabbi Benzion Shemtov in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Angelita Williams) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. – An unusual sound rang out from the Prosser Village Chapel Annex recently – the sound of a shofar being blown.

In preparation for Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Benzion Shemtov introduced Soldiers to the tradition of shofar blowing by having them actually make their own shofar horn to keep.

Before the work began, Shemtov first explained the traditions and the rules regarding the shofar.

“The [blowing of the] shofar is a biblical commandment that the celebration for Rosh Hashanah revolves around,” he said.

Rosh Hashanah is a three-day celebration, commemorating the beginning of the Jewish new year, and the blowing of the shofar is a ritual performed by Jews during that time. On each day of Rosh Hashanah, Jewish law requires that the shofar be blown 30 times, and by custom it is usually blown 100 or 101 times on each day.

The shofar is a musical horn, typically made of a ram's horn. It is perhaps the oldest and most primitive wind instrument, and its sound is simple and plaintive. But while its sound is simple, there are many rules regarding the creation of a shofar.

In the Torah, there are two words that are commonly translated as “horn” – keren and shofar. Keren refers to any horn instrument. Shofar, by contrast, refers to a very specific kind of horn.

The first rule for a shofar is that the horn must come from an animal that is kosher. This means ruminant animals with cloven or split hooves, such as cows, sheep, goats, buffalo and deer. However, one must also be able to remove the inner marrow of the horn. Sheep, goats, cows and others have horns which consist of a sheath of keratin covering a bony core of marrow. This inner core can be easily removed, and you are then left with the keratin sheath, which forms a naturally hollow structure that can be used to blow musical notes. In contrast, animals like the deer and antelope, have horns or antlers that are made of solid material, which cannot simply be removed.

“The idea of a shofar is, it comes from the word ‘shefoferet’- which means ‘to hollow out’,” Shemtov said. “Therefore, the shofar requires a type of horn that comes from a kosher animal, that you also have the ability to hollow out.

“You can’t just say ‘Ok, let me just take a drill and drill a hole in a deer horn, and I’ll have a shofar.’ We are not able to do that because it comes from ‘shefoferet’ which means we have to be able to take out the marrow.”

The rabbi explained that there is one further exception to the rule. Although buffalo, oxen and cows have horns that can be hollowed, we nevertheless find that the Torah refers to the horns of these animals only as keren and never as shofar.

“The reason is, that on Rosh Hashanah we use the shofar to crown God as king over us, and we want God to remember us for the good,” Shemtov explained. “And if you’re going to take a horn from the cow family, we don’t want God to be reminded of the first sin that the Jewish people committed, which was the sin of [worshipping the] the golden calf, so therefor we do not use those horns.”

Shemtov said the preferred horn for a shofar is a ram’s horn that recalls the binding of Isaac, when Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son, stopping only when an angel showed him a ram whose horns were entangled in the nearby thicket. Thus, he said, when we blow a ram’s horn, it is as if we are reenacting this amazing act of devotion.

“Just like we don’t want to remind God of the negative, at the same time, we do like to remind Him of the sacrifices, and the good that we have done,” the rabbi said.

He also pointed out that a ram’s horn bends upwards and said that “being ‘bent’ is a sign of humility. And when we are actually seeking God’s kingship over us, we are looking to be humble.”

The final two rules for a shofar are that they must be bigger than the hand holding it, and they must have no cracks or holes in them. Additionally, he said, most people sand and polish their shofar because, “We want it to be beautiful and pleasing to God.”

Once all the rules were established, the rabbi gave each of the students their own ram’s horn, and they proceeded outside where sandpaper and shellack awaited. For more than thirty minutes, the horns were sanded and buffed, and then finally coated with polyurethane and allowed to dry, before the students tried their hands at blowing their shofar.

The results were mixed, with only two of the students actually being able to create a sound with their horns. Regardless, all the participants were thrilled with the experience.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve tried to [blow a shofar],” said Spc. Mark Blank. “I’ve never had one of my own though, so this is a real treat for me.”

Another Soldier in attendance, Spc. Williams Thompson, agreed.

“I never would have thought that I’d be doing this today,” he said. “This is really awesome.”

The Religious Support Office will be holding a special Rosh Hashanah celebration at 5 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17 beginning at Buffalo Soldier Chapel. From there, Shemtov will lead the way to the Lakeside Pavilion where a shofar will be blown, and they will conduct a traditional Tashlich ceremony.

Everyone in the community is welcome to attend.

(Editor's Note: See 2023-09-03 Shofar making for Rosh Hashanah | Flickr for more photos.)

# # #

Fort Huachuca is home to the U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence, the U.S. Army Network Enterprise Technology Command/9th Army Signal Command and more than 48 supported tenants representing a diverse, multiservice population. Our unique environment encompasses 946 square miles of restricted airspace and 2,500 square miles of protected electronic ranges, key components to the national defense mission.

Located in Cochise County, in southeast Arizona, about 15 miles north of the border with Mexico, Fort Huachuca is an Army installation with a rich frontier history. Established in 1877, the Fort was declared a national landmark in 1976.

We are the Army’s Home. Learn more at