On Shofar Blowing
Yesterday, I blew shofar during the Shofarot part of Musaph. I don’t know if it was the weather, but none of the people who were given the honor the first day could produce what the old Silverman prayer book used to call “ the shrill quivering call of the shofar”. The sounds that emerges were choked spitty pfffts. it may well have been the weather, because when I tried my own shofar in the afternoon, all I could produce were those same pathetic choked sputters.
My father was the sole shofar blower in his synagogue in Quincy. I used to wait anxiously hoping that he could produce that strong true slightly terrifying sound. Done right, a shofar blast sounds like it is carrying your deepest prayers to the heavens. My father usually did an excellent job we would sit in the front row watching my fathers face turn red with the effort. It was always both thrilling and highly anxiety provoking watching my father blow shofar.
For many years, the woman who blew shofar at my synagogue was a highly anxious woman who was a French horn player. She produced a sound that was nuanced, complex and over the course of a t’kiya would take you through a range of powerful emotion.
My friend Joe was the first to blow shofar second day. He uses one of those long twisty shofarot that sounds like it is being sounded by Charleton Heson. I realized as I head the sound that when it’s done right, not only does the sofar lift your prayers to the divine, the sound of the shofar also vibrates inside of you, you can feel your organs vibrate to the sound. It’s as if the divine is calling to you, from inside of you. What I love about blowing shofar is as you do it, you feel all of the cavity that is the inside of your body and you use that cavity to create the sound.
My friend Fred tells of how he used to go out with a Deaf woman. They used to go dancing at Deaf clubs. Fred asked his girlfriend how the Deaf knew how to dance to the music. She told him that they feel the music in their sternums. A good shofar blast is like that. You feel it inside of you.
I use a small shofar, pictured above, that produces a high but powerful sound. My nephew had gotten it as a bar-mitzvah gift. I don’t exactly remember how we came to own it. perhaps one of my sons wanted to own a shofar. So how did I do when it was my turn??? I began and ended with those dispiriting pfffts. The blasts in between were true and pure. Standing there I was standing not as an individual, but as a representative, a messenger for everyone in that room.
When a sofar blast is done well, people are grateful that you have delivered the message properly. The hugs and smiles I received as I returned to my seat let me know that I had done my job.
G’mar Chaitma Tovah