When Jews gather Tuesday for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Stuart Jacoby will look forward to the sounding of the shofar at Temple Sinai in Sharon. It’s the moment in the service when the blast from the hollowed-out horn of a ram, antelope or other animal resounds as a wake-up call.
When Jews gather Tuesday for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, Stuart Jacoby will look forward to the sounding of the shofar at Temple Sinai in Sharon.
It’s the moment in the service when the blast from the hollowed-out horn of a ram, antelope or other animal resounds as a wake-up call.
“We’re waking up to the responsibilities of being Jewish and the call of God, however one conceives that to be – the person, the idea or the energy of the universe,” said Jacoby, a psychologist who is teaching shofar blowing to congregation members.
On the final services of Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance, Jacoby and more than a dozen other adults and children will ring the sanctuary, raise the narrow opening of the horn to their lips and let loose a blast known as the Ta-ke-ah Gedolah, a shrill sound held as long as the blower can manage.
“It’s an honor to sound this wake-up call and in a sense be a messenger,” said Jacoby, who works in the Boston Public Schools and has a private practice in Sharon. “It’s a period of contemplation and self-cleansing, and a call to live a life that is healthy and good.”
The prolonged sound – referred to as the “great blast” – is the last of four soundings during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The first three are: Ta-ke-ah, a sustained blast; Shavorim, three quick blasts; and Tru-ah, nine stacatto blasts, in quick sequence.
“The sound is mysterious and ancient, like no other,” said Temple Sinai’s rabbi, Joseph Meszler, who calls out the name of each sound before it is blown.
This is the 14th year that Temple Sinai has encouraged its members to participate in shofar blowing. Some other South Shore congregations do so as well.
“I believe that you learn about Judaism by doing it,” Rabbi Meszler said. “By sounding the shofar, our children and adults are going to create wonderful memories for themselves.”
“For the congregation, there’s something very powerful about being encircled by sound and by seeing a young person produce this very ancient sound,” he said. “There is a connection between the traditional and the new, the old and the young, that is really quite magical.”
In addition to participating in Yom Kippur service, adults will blow the shofar during services on the two days of Rosh Hashanah. And Jacoby’s goal is to teach whoever wants to learn.
“People tend to pick it up pretty quickly, but they have to practice buzzing their lips and sustaining their breath,” said Jacoby, who said he picked it up easily because he used to play the trumpet. “And you can learn to vary the sound and make it higher or lower by how you tighten your lips.”
Jacoby owns his shofar, a foot-long ram’s horn, but Temple Sinai loans horns to people taking Jacoby’s three-session class. A large selection of horns, ranging in price from about $30-$250, is available at the Israel Book Shop in Brookline, as well as stores and online sites selling Judaica items.
Shofars also are intriguing to look at, and their shape and size depend on the animal and its age. Twisted ram horns are the most common ones and generally are tan, although black ones also are available.
Horns from a kudu antelope, called Yemenite horns, are very long and have a spiral shape. The less common Moroccan shofar is made from a flat ram’s horn. The surface of the horns can be polished or left natural.
And although the shofar is a memorable part of religious services, it is not a sacred object and can be a part of secular life.
“It’s a blast, no pun intended. Every once in a while, I blow it the rest of the year,” Jacoby said. Then added jokingly, “Sometimes I want to shock my daughter a little bit.”
Reach Patriot Ledger writer Jody Feinberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.