The sound of the shofar grew increasingly stronger
i was about 15 years old and it was my time for cup of coffee in the big leagues for shofar blowing. years of jr. congregation blowing were about to pay off. i got the call to blow shofar for the adults’ rosh hashanah service.
a shofar is crafted out of a ram’s horn. each shofar is one-of-a-kind and vary in all shapes and sizes. likewise, each one has a unique sound.
the term “shofar blowing” is perhaps a misnomer. rams’ horns play like modern brass horn musical instruments. a player’ lips on the “blow hole” will be in the form of an embouchure. a player, to successfully blow, will simultaneously vibrate their lips and force of air through them.
lip vibration is a developed skill requiring muscle memory and practice. likewise, breathing for air flow for instrumental playing is a learned technique. the final element to create a note is tonguing action. brass instrument tonguing techniques can play a valuable function when blowing shofar. the triple tonguing technique can be employed on playing a shofar’s shevarim note.
size doesn’t matter.
a talented shofar blower can get great sounds out of any sized ram’s horn. my shofar ironically was small and matched my diminutive stature. my aunt and uncle brought it back from israel as a gift.
shofar blowing essentially involve four notes: tekiah, a long note, teruah, three medium notes, shevarim, nine short notes, and tekiah gedolah, a singular very long note. the climax of shofar blowing is the tekiah gedolah note.
as i studied trumpet, shofar blowing was easy. while easy, to provide an excellent performance, there is the need for preparation. time is needed to practice to adjust the embouchure for a nice tone. also, there is need to regularly practice for a considerable time to build up endurance. the practice is required as as the service involves playing a significant amount of notes. thus, muscle conditioning is very important. it is not uncommon for shofar blowers to fade during the service.
it was show time. i took the stage and performed. when ask to do the final long note, the tekiah gedolah, i gave it a little extra and i blew a nice long note.
immediately after the the service, i was accosted by the synagogue’s ritual director. he grabbed me. he lashed out that i had done something wrong and that shofar blowing was an old man’s game. apparently, i performed too well. my father was nearby and saw what was happening. he got involved and defended me. it got ugly. it wasn’t the way i envisioned the new year beginning.
it was apparent, i really blew it in a big way.
in the end, my days in the big leagues were over. i was sent back down to the minor leagues never to return to the big stage. the chaos from the experience left me with no ambition to become a shofar blowing fixture. a few years later, i stopped.
years later, however, redemption occurred. many shofar blowers now go long on their tekiah gedolahs. further, my reputation was remembered. over the years, i have been invited to perform at professional services.
did my ill fated moment change shofar blowing culture? who knows.
in the end, perhaps something else occurred. my father’s defense of me is still deeply in my memory. this is remarkable for an event that occurred over 40 years ago. while others hear the call for the shofar is meant as an awakening, hearing my father’s support was perhaps an awakening that has served me the rest of my life. this was perhaps the first time in my life that “someone had my back.” since that time, i have taken it upon myself to defend myself and others in a multitude of situations. apparently, a new year turned into a new life.
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|It came to pass on the third day when it was morning, that there were thunder claps and lightning flashes, and a thick cloud was upon the mountain, and a very powerful blast of a shofar, and the entire nation that was in the camp shuddered.|
|17Moses brought the people out toward God from the camp, and they stood at the bottom of the mountain.|
|18And the entire Mount Sinai smoked because the Lord had descended upon it in fire, and its smoke ascended like the smoke of the kiln, and the entire mountain quaked violently.|
|19The sound of the shofar grew increasingly stronger; Moses would speak and God would answer him with a voice.|