2014-09-29

Cantor's "Shofar Set"

I have, elsewhere, pointed out that the shofar calls on Rosh Hashanah repeat a pattern of dividing a blast into three parts. Correlating the length of a a line segment to the duration of each pulse allows us to score the blasts as follows:
______________________  Tekiah (Initial)
_______ _______ _______  Shevarim
__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __  Teruah

If we continue to divide each segment recursively, each pulse becomes so brief that the series of them reconstitutes itself into a steady sound:
---------------------------     Tekiah (Closing)

This type of pattern is known in mathematics as a Cantor Set. Described by Georg Cantor in 1883, a Cantor set can be modeled by a line segment divided into two smaller segments, each of which is further divided into two smaller segments, and so on without end. Here is how the set is commonly portrayed:
Cantor ternary set, in seven iterations

Cantor realized the set contains an infinite number of line segments, each with an infinite number of points. While modern mathematicians recognize the Cantor set as a fractal, many of Cantor's contemporaries felt an "infinity of infinities" was a challenge to the uniqueness of the absolute infinity in the nature of God.

Cantor was not put off by this. He wrote:
I have never proceeded from any 'Genus supermum' [categorization of everything] of the actual infinite. Quite the contrary, I have rigorously proved that there is absolutely no "Genus supremum' of the actual infinite. What surpasses all that is finite and transfinite is no 'Genus'; it is the single, completely individual unity in which everything is included, which includes the Absolute, incomprehensible to the human understanding. This is the Actus Purissimus, [pure or perfect act] which by many is called God."
Poster from /www.mathematicianspictures.com/Mathematicians/Cantor.htm. The site explains,  "Backing Cantor's image is a graphic generated from a "Cantor Set". A "Cantor Set" is an infinite set constructed using only the numbers between 0 and 1. A Cantor set is constructed by starting with a line of length 1, and removing the middle 1/3. Next, the middle 1/3 of each of the pieces that are left are removed, and then the middle 1/3 of the pieces that remain after that are removed. The set that remains after continuing this process forever is called the Cantor set. The Cantor set contains uncountably many points.
There appears to be a deeply mystical aspect to his work. His notation for cardinal numbers is \aleph (aleph) with a natural number subscript. His set theory diagrams look like the kabbalistic charts with permutations of God's names. John D. Barrow writes in The Infinite Book: A Short Guide to the Boundless, Timeless and Endless, Cantor "started to tell his friends that he had not been the inventor of the ideas about infinity that he had published. He was merely a mouthpiece, inspired by God to communicate parts of the mind of God to everyone else."

From this brief introduction to the Cantor set, we see that the "Shofar set" of blasts leads us to a new understanding of the Holy, a mathematical kavanah.
--------------------

As an aside, I love the way the Cantor set is applied to "Cantor" below. Note how the individual line segments have become indistinct and a new solid line appears to emerge:





The design, from http://complex.upf.es/~josep/fractals.html, inspired me to create the following Hebrew script spelling of "shofar" with broken lines as a mnemonic for the blast sequence.

If you develop this idea further, please send me a copy of your design.

Cutest Shofar Blower Ever

video
Granddaughter Samantha Chusid, almost 11 month old, seems to have learned the sounds of shofar.  Start them young, I say.

2014-09-28

Angels and Shofar

Somewhere in my writings I quoted the following meditation from a Machzor. Now I know its source is Isaac Luria

Meditation on blowing the Shofar on New Year's Day; this meditation was written by Rabbi Isaac Luria:

     "May it be Thy will, O God of heaven and earth, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, great and awe-inspiring God, that Thou mayest send all the pure angels, the faithful messengers, who are eager to favor Israel: Palzpatzya* who is charged to bring to light the merits of Israel when they blow the Shofar, Toshbash, whose duty is to confuse Satan, and the great angels Hadarniel and Tusniel whose task it is to bring the Shofar-blasts before Thy throne of glory. Let Thy mercy over Thy people prevail, and look down upon the ashes of our father Isaac which are accumulated upon the altar. ...
     "May it be Thy will, that the blasts ... which we blow may be embroidered (engraved) through the official Tartiel in Thy throne of glory, just as Thou acceptest through Elijah of blessed memory, and Joshua the head of the face, and the head Matat: and be filled with mercy over us. ..."

From Jewish Liturgy and Its Development, A.Z. Idelsohn, 1932, Dover edition, pg 50.


*Typography is indistinct, may be spelled "Patzpatzya". See Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period, (Abridged Edition) By Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough

Article in Newark Star-Ledger. September 25, 2014.


The shofar is the sound of Rosh Hashanah, a blast of horns to mark the Jewish New Year

By Lisa Rose | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com 
on September 24, 2014 at 7:00 AM, updated September 24, 2014 at 10:54 AM



Growing up in White Meadow Lake during the 1960’s, Eric Freedman had an unspectacular career at Hebrew school. He recalls daydreaming about basketball during classes and making the occasional wisecrack.

These days, Freedman plays a serious role at the synagogue, blasting the shofar during high holidays services. He often gets mistaken for a rabbi, which amuses his sisters, who remember his Hebrew school antics.

The West Orange stucco contractor creates stentorian sounds with a curled ram’s horn at Congregation Ahavas Sholom in Newark. The instrument generates a cathartic clamor that echoes back to ancient times.

The shofar player, or baal tekiah, is tasked with hitting 100 notes to rouse spirits on Rosh Hashanah, issuing a call for unity and personal growth in the coming year, Freedman said. 
More than 1,000 shofar sounders shatter record in WhippanyLast Sunday, 1,043 shofar players gathered in a Whippany parking lot and blew their way into the record books. They broke a Guinness Record for world's largest shofar ensemble. The event was organized by the Partnership of Jewish Learning and Life
On Wednesday, Freedman and shofar sounders around the state will deliver decibel-heavy transcendence at synagogues, ushering in the Hebrew year, 5775.
The shofar blower is a central figure during services to mark the turn of the calendar but he or she needn’t be a rabbi or cantor. At many Jersey temples, members of the congregation step up to the pulpit and sound the horn.

“I always thought the baal tekiah was a holy man but it’s actually a representative of the community,” said Freeman, 56. “In Judaism, an ordinary person can get involved in some profound activities.”

The shofar is an equal opportunity instrument, particularly in reform temples that present “surround sound” blasts, with adults and children who blow in unison around the synagogue.

“The advantage is that everybody in the congregation is close to a shofar blower,” said Rabbi Rachel Steiner of Barnert Temple in Franklin Lakes. “It’s a powerful experience to be close to somebody who’s blasting the shofar and it creates a sense of pride in the community when everyone sees people of all ages and genders get up to blast shofar.”

A shofar record was set last Sunday in Whippany, when 1,043 people sounded horns for five minutes in the parking lot of the Alex Aidekman Family Jewish Community Campus. The previous record for largest shofar ensemble was set in 2006, with 796 participants blowing horns on a beach in Swampscott, Massachusetts, according to Guinness World Records.
The Whippany event, called the Great Shofar Blowout, was organized by the Partnership for Jewish Learning and Life as a community outreach project. Blowers of all religions were invited to help New Jersey shatter the record.

“For most people, hearing shofar is an observer kind of thing,” said Robert Lichtman, executive director of the partnership. “What we are accomplishing is putting the shofar literally in the hands of people who can make a real physical connection with this act of blowing shofar. Hearing shofar has an impact on me as a worshiper but now I’ll feel an even greater connection to it.”

In conservative and orthodox synagogues, the shofar blower is usually soloist with a musical background. There are three distinct sounds to master: a single blast called tekiah, three wailing tones called shevarim and nine staccato bursts called teruah. The sequence ends with tekiah gedolah, a dramatic, elongated note.

“The shofar gets back to a kind of atavistic emotion that you can’t get playing on a computer or an Xbox,” said Arthur Finkle, a Trenton native who wrote a book for beginners, “Easy Guide to Shofar Sounding.”

Finkle said, “When I was a kid, the shofar was one of the only things I understood at temple. They had services in two languages, Hebrew and Yiddish. I didn’t understand either at the time but I understood the shofar. It was startling because the synagogue is a pretty formalistic place. This seemed like a big break in routine.”
Shofar player preps to blow horn at Newark synagogueEric Freedman of West Orange is the shofar blower at Congregation Avahas Sholom in Newark. He has been the synagogue's designated instrumentalist for 14 years, sounding a ram's horn during high holidays services. (Lisa Rose | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)
According to Jewish law, a baal tekiah cannot begin practicing until late summer. They start blowing during the month of Elul, cycling through the notes daily for four weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah.

“When I learned shofar, I had two young children and I had to play in the closet,” said Finkle. “You want to hit the right notes and you get stage fright but I tell people to remember that blowing the shofar is a spiritual experience, not a performance. I consider myself a vessel, not a performer. It’s not a concert. It’s not important who is playing. The sound is the focus. The sound must be provided to the congregation. Jews are obligated to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah.”

A religious awakening, along with a little serendipity, led Freedman to the instrument. After the death of his father in 2000, he became more devout and active at Ahavas Sholom. He made arrangements for the holiday services and hired an experienced baal tekiah.
It seemed like everything was under control, Freedman said, until the baal tekiah called to cancel weeks before Rosh Hashanah. Anxiety gave way to calm as Freedman decided that he would learn the shofar himself, sounding the horn in memory of his father.

Freedman’s shofar mentor was Baruch Lepkivker, a Lubavitch rabbi from Bris Avrohom in Hillside. The rabbi gave Freedman a horn, along with a series of lessons.

“It was a challenge, learning the notes in four weeks,” said Freedman, who recently took his wife and 4-year-old son to a shofar workshop at JCC MetroWest in West Orange.

Freedman said, “I carried the shofar in my bag all day and when I had a moment, I’d blow it. I’d blow it on the street, in the warehouse and behind Dunkin’ Donuts. After practicing for four weeks, I met the rabbi at a truck stop on Route 1 and 9 in Kearny. We were standing on a grass median and I blew the shofar to show him what I’d learned. I asked him, ‘Do you think shofar was ever blown on this spot in the history of humankind?’”

Freedman said he had butterflies in his stomach the first time he stepped up to the bima, horn in hand. He didn’t nail every note but he came to realize that imperfections don’t diminish the impact of the sound on the congregation. After that first year, he decided to continue as baal tekiah at Ahavas Sholom.

“It’s the proudest endeavor I’ve ever taken on Jewishly,” said Freedman. “I had some tough years early on but I don’t think anybody left and said, ‘That was terrible.’ Our human traits kick in and there’s that egotistical aspect to it but the overriding reason that the shofar is blown is to accomplish a collective goal, a collective mitzvah.”

Finkle said he’s had his share of shofar flubs over the course of 40 years.

“If I play the incorrect notes, I have to start over the phrase from a legal point of view but some synagogues are more liberal than others,” said Finkle. “People ask all kinds of Jewish legal questions. ‘Can a person play the shofar if he borrows it from somebody?’ The answer is yes because presumably the person would have lent it to that person as a mitzvah. ‘What if someone steals a shofar?’ That’s okay too because he’s not stealing the sound. You can steal the shofar but you can’t steal the sound. The logic is a little strange but the sound is the key concept, not the instrument itself.“

Shofars are crafted from animal horns, a callback to the story of Abraham demonstrating his devotion to God by offering his son, Isaac as a sacrifice. The ram’s horn reflects God’s mercy, as Abraham slayed an animal instead of his child. Most shofars come from kosher rams, antelopes and goats. Steer and ox horns are off limits because of they evoke the Golden Calf.

“I was at the shofar making workshop and the rabbi pulled out a really long horn that’s straight and he said it’s a kosher gazelle but it’s not encouraged to use because it’s straight and one of the kabbalistic ideas behind shofar blowing is that we’re supposed to bend our hearts,” said Freedman. “Preferably a shofar should have a bend in it.”

Finkle will be taking his shofar on the road this year. He is going to sound the instrument at the Greenwood House, a nursing home in Ewing, on Wednesday and Thursday. He makes shofar house calls for congregants who are too ill to attend services at temple.

“There are people whose lives are changed but in the nursing homes, I also get people who tell me to shut up,” said Finkle. “One year, they asked me to visit a patient who was in the cardiac care ward at the hospital. I walk in with this animal horn and the nurse looks at it like, ‘What is this thing?’ I told her the story and said, ‘I don’t want to cause any more heart attacks.’ She said, ‘Close the door and play softly.’ Ten years later, I found out that this 95-year-old man’s life changed because of the shofar. His daughter told me he had DNR orders written all over him until that Rosh Hashanah. He ripped them up and lived three years subsequent.”

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2014/09/shofars_sound_loud_and_clear_to_rouse_spirits_on_rosh_hashanah.html








2014-09-26

Shofar outdoors



The shofar is meant to be blown outdoors. All of the shofar blowing describe in Tanach occurred in the open air. The horn is a signalling device meant to be heard over long distances; there would be no need to sound it in the comparatively small rooms of biblical era buildings.



Photo of Maurice Kamins, master shofar maker, sounding a horn at Lava Beds National Park in northern Calif. during Elul. Video features Rabbi Leah Grafstein in Sedona, Arizona.

2014-09-25

As good as sex

When I am fully present while sounding shofar, the experience is as good as sex.  Consider
  • Prayer is great foreplay, focusing attention and reconnect me to life energy.
  • Excitement builds as the shofar service gets closer.
  • I am very aware of the tactile sensation of holding the shofar close to me.
  • There is a rhythmic thrust to the blowing.
  • Breath deepens and pulse quickens.
  • Senses become more acute even as my eyes close.
  • Tension builds until a culmination, the tekiah gedolah provides a complete release.
With my tallit over my head, I feel like I am wrapped in a blanket and being hugged. Endorphins flood my body and I feel emotionally soft, glowing, and quivering. I try to linger in the afterglow, not rushing back into the flow of worship around me but continuing to listen to the still small voice of shofar stirring inside me.

Much of the liturgy and meaning of Rosh Hashanah explores the generative forces of birth. Shofar is part of that process, an orgasmic start to the new year.

2014-09-23

7th Month. 7-Up. Makes sense to me.

An advertisement for 7-Up soda, c. 1960. 21” x 15”
Auction by J. Greenstein and Co.
www.liveauctioneers.com/item/29324942_a-new-years-advertisment-for-7-up-soda-usa-c-1960
Rosh Hashanah is at the start of the 7th month in the Hebrew calendar. Or maybe the poster is announcing the Jubilee when shofar is to be blown after 7 cycles of the 7-year sabbatical cycle.

2014-09-17

Origin of Tekiah Gedolah?

Cantor Daniel Pincus points out, "Of particular interest to me is the fact that neither the talmud, RAMBAM or the Shulchan Aruch mandate or discuss tekiah gedolah."

I am sure the practice of holding the note is quite ancient. But where does the written record begin?

Shofar in Modern Music, Literature and Art

Kees van Hage has written a Ph.D. dissertation on A Tool of Rememberance: The Shofar in Modern Music, Literature and Art. Excerpts can be read at http://hdl.handle.net/11245/1.430729. After a review of shofar in traditional religious texts, he provides "Dialogues between Traditional Religious Texts and Modern Music, Literature, and Art: A Classification", then analyzes seventy artistic works. 
Kees van Hage presenting his dissertation.
I particularly recommend you read his 3-page summary at http://dare.uva.nl/document/2/149911.

He has made a great contribution to the scholarly study of shofar.

2014-09-14

Man is a creature of physical matter.

Sefer HaChinuch with respect to the Mitzvah of Shofar:

“At the root of the precept lies the reason that since man is a creature of physical matter, he is not aroused to things except by something stirring, in the way that people at the time of battle will sound horns and even shriek, in order to be well aroused to war.  Then so, too, on the day of Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the year, which is the day determined of old for all those who came into the world to be judged on it...  For this reason everyone needs to arouse his nature to entreat mercy for his sins from the Master of mercies; for Hashem is gracious and compassionate, forgives iniquity, wrongdoing and sin, and absolves those who turn back to Him with all their heart.  Now, the sound of the shofar greatly stirs the heart of all who hear it, and all the more certainly the sound of the t’ruah, which means the broken (quavering) peal."

2014-09-08

Colloquium Musicology - University of Amsterdam

Dr Kees van Hage on 'A tool of Remembrance: The shofar in Modern Music, Literature and Art'

Colloquium Musicology

This colloquium will be held On 25 September, 15:30 - 17:00, in the University Theatre (Nieuwe Doelenstraat 16), room 3.01

The shofar

The shofar or ram’s horn, like the menorah and the Star of David, is a central symbol of Judaism. In the Hebrew Bible, it is the most mentioned instrument: it announces the revelation of the Ten Commandments, it calls for religious rituals, it is heard in the exhortations of prophets and it gives the signal for battle. In the Bible, however, the shofar is only rarely a musical instrument. In the prayer books for Rosh Ha-Shanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), the shofar produces a wordless continuation of prayer, and therefore is considered a ritual instrument instead of a musical instrument.

By the end of the 19th century, writers, composers and artists changed their way of looking at the shofar and thanks to their work, the venerable ram’s horn was given a second youth; it made an artistic turn to music, literature and art, revealing its unexpected artistic abilities, without forgetting its religious past.

A Tool of Remembrance
, the first scholarly monograph on the shofar, explores the use and meanings of the shofar as a traditional religious symbol in the new, secular context of modern music, literature and art, where the instrument is no longer subject to restrictions of place (the synagogue), time (the liturgical year) and authority (halakhah), and where it is directed to general, not exclusively Jewish audiences of listeners, readers or viewers, who are not aroused to action or repentance, but invited to experience the artists’ personal interpretations of Jewish traditions.

http://www.uva.nl/en/about-the-uva/organisation/faculties/content/faculteit-der-geesteswetenschappen/shared-content/events/debates/2014/09/a-tool-of-remenbrance.html

2014-09-05

Shofar in Hebrew script

Rabbi Miriam Hamrell of Ahavat Torah, Los Angeles, CA was looking at a table covered with shofarot recently. There were tightly curled sheep horns, and sheep horns that had been partially straightened; straight gemsbok horns, and twisting kudu horns. She wrote "shofar" in Hebrew script, and said, "Look, the shape of the letters are the same as the shape of the horns!"

2014-07-28

Sounding Shofar During Morning Services During Elul

Sounding Shofar During Morning Services During Elul

Arthur L. Finkle


The Code of Jewish Law (Shulhan Arukh, I28:8) instructs that the shofar shall be sounded in the period between rosh hodesh (new month) Elul until after Yom Kippur. The religious rationale was that Moses ascended Mount Sinai to receive the second tablets, dwelt there for 40 days, and descended on the tenth of Tishre, when the atonement was completed. The musi­cal rationale is that the forty-day period provided the necessary practice to develop the appropriate embouchure.
 
The religious rationale come from the Midrash (Pirkei d'R' Eliezer 45; R. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus (80-118 C.E.), a disciple of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakai and teacher of Rabbi Akiva):
[During the Jews' first year in the desert,] they received the [Ten] Commandments on the sixth of the month [of Sivan], [and then] Moshe forty days on the mountain studying, [and then] on the seventeenth of [the month of] Tammuz he came down and broke the Tablets. [Forty days later] on Rosh Chodesh Elul, HaKadosh Baruch Hu said to him "Come up to Me on the mountain" (Devarim 10:1), and an [announcement through blowing] shofar was spread throughout the camp, [saying] that "Moshe has gone up on the mountain!" - so that they would not be [led] astray after strange worship [once] again, and [the honor of] HaKadosh Baruch Hu was uplifted through that shofar [blowing], as it says (Tehillim 47:6) "G-d rises up at [the blowing of] the shofar." Accordingly, the Sages instituted that shofar be blown each and every year on Rosh Chodesh Elul [the authorities' text - unlike ours which says "Tishrei" (from here on are the words of the Tur and the Rosh - possibly their text to the Midrash itself)] and [throughout] the entire month, in order to urge Israel that they do teshuvah [i.e. "return to Hashem" (repent)], as it says (Amos 3:6), "If a shofar shall be blown in a city [can it be that the inhabitants will not be shaken?]," and in order to confuse the Satan [i.e. angel of Heavenly prosecution].
In rabbinic commentaries, the Rosh (Rabbeinu Asher ben Yechiel, Germany and Spain, 1250 - 1327, ruling at the end of tractate Rosh HaShanah) concludes: "[Indeed,] it is the Ashkenazi minhag (custom) to blow [shofar] throughout the month of Elul, morning and evening, after the prayer [services]."

Commenting on this custom, The Tur (Rabbeinu Yaakov ben Asher, Spain, 1280 - 1345) is in Orach Chayim 581. The Rema, Yosef Karo (Spain, Portugal and Turkey - 1488-1575) brings a variation - blowing only after the morning service (Shacharis). The Mishnah Berurah, an update of religious laws in the Code of Jewish Law, dated approximately 1900) confirms the accepted custom. See www.learnhalacha.com/ElulShofar.pdf



The musical rationale is what any instrumentalist would do preparatory to a performance. See Arthur L. Finkle, The  Easy Guide to Shofar Sounding, LA: Torah Aura, 2003














2014-07-26

A time for peace.

"Joab blew the shofar, and all the troops came to a halt... 
they did not fight anymore."
2 Samuel 2:28


It is time for Israel to sound the shofar and halt its bombardment of Gaza. Their strategy is only making Hamas stronger by building resentment against Israel.

Israel is a strong nation, and the strong do not need to attack the weak. The Iron Dome is working. Let Hamas fire its missiles until the world sees the the disgrace of Hamas and shames them out of power.

A better strategy for Israel would be to bring march its warriors up and down the border of Gaza for seven days without firing a shot. Then on the seventh day, blow seven shofarot. 
Fortress Hamas will crumble. Hamas cannot survive in an environment of love.

To every thing there is a season:
a time for love
a time for peace

2014-07-03

Hearing Reb Zalman

More than anyone else, my book on shofar and this website is due to the influence of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. I had never heard the shofar - the type of hearing that reaches the kishkes and pierced the shell of the neshama - until Reb Zalman brought its voice into my life in 1993.

"Baruch Dayan HaEmet"


2014-06-26

Shofar survives holocaust

http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/azstarnet.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/86/186c38b4-dabf-11e3-ad8b-0019bb2963f4/53724eac0af5c.preview-620.jpg
Photo Credit:
According the Arizona Daily Star, May 13, 2014, Werner Zimmit, "recalls that in early 1945, while in the area of Alsace-Lorraine (then part of Germany, now part of France), he came upon a small synagogue that had been used by the Nazis as a horse stable. Lying in the dirt, mostly covered with mud, was a shofar, a musical instrument, usually made of ram horn, that is used for Jewish religious purposes. He picked it up and saved it for many years, until he felt it needed a proper home and donated it to the Jewish History Museum, 564 S. Stone Ave. [Tucson, AZ] It is on display there now."

2014-06-23

Ugly vessels

The Talmud states that wisdom is like wine. It improves if stored in an earthenware cask, but spoils in silver or gold vessels. (Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, Smiling Each Day, 1993, Pg 15)
This comes from Babylonian Talmud Masechet Nedarim 50a and concerns Rabbi Joshua ben Hananiah, a man whose physical beauty did not match his wisdom:
File:Wine horn with a gazelle protome, Iran or present-day Turkey, Achaemenid period, 6th-4th century BC, earthenware and paint - Arthur M. Sackler Gallery - DSC05814.JPG
Earthernware rython.
The Emperor's daughter said to R. Joshua b. Hananiah: 'Such comely wisdom in an ugly vessel!'

He replied. 'Learn front thy father's palace. In what is the wine stored?'

'In earthern jars.' she answered.

'But all [common] people store [wine] in earthern vessels and thou too likewise! Thou shouldst keep it in jars of gold and silver!'

So she went and had the wine replaced in vessels of gold and silver, and it turned sour.

'Thus,' said he to her, 'The Torah is likewise!'

'But are there not handsome people who are learned too?'

'Were they ugly they would be even more learned,' he retorted.
Hebrew for "vessel" is "k'lee", a term that can also describe a shofar. I interpret this teaching to explain why a horn, fashioned from a crude horn of an animal that grazed on earth is used instead of a trumpet of precious metal.

2014-06-12

Available at Auction

A COLLECTION OF FOUR ANTIQUE SHOFARS
Continental, 19th century. Each in traditional shape.
Sizes range from 11” to 22”. Estimate $2,000 – 4,000
AN EARLY SHOFAR.
Germany, c. 1780. Flat. Engraved in Hebrew
“THIS BELONGS TO THE CHARITY FUND OF THE HOLY CONGREGATION A.Y.”.
15” long. Estimate $2,200 – 2,800
AN EARLY ISRAEL BOND PRESENTATION SHOFAR.
Israel, 1958. Presented to Congregation Beth Jacob as an
acknowledgment for successful bond raising efforts.
12.2” long. Estimate $1,200 – 1,500

2014-06-02

18th Century Shofarot

This image is from a history of English synagogues. A caption says, "Shofar, 18th Century" but does not offer provenance. The antelope horn, top, would have been quite exotic at the time. I have not seen another example attributed to such an age.


http://www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk/susser/roth/chnine.htm

Shofar at Cemetery Dedication in Russia

 "A unique ritual was performed in the town of Novomoskovsk on the outskirts of Moscow last week, with the consecration of a new Jewish cemetery on a plot of land donated for the purpose by a local philanthropist.

"The ritual involved the circling of the plot of land by the rabbis present, the blowing of Shofars and the recitation of certain passages.

"The ceremony was overseen by Russia’s chief rabbi Berel Lazar, and head of the local division of ZAKA R. Yaakov Roza.

"After the ceremony, the rabbis and Shluchim joined together for a Farbrengen, voicing the hope that the new Beis Hachayim would never have to be put to use."

If you know of a precedent for shofar in a cemetery dedication, please let me know.


http://crownheights.info/chabad-news/439138/new-jewish-cemetery-dedicated-near-russian-capital/ 2014-May-28

2014-05-27

100 Shofarot for People's Climate March! -- NYC Sept 20-21


I support the following call, posted by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 5/22/2014

http://ww1.prweb.com/prfiles/2009/12/14/2449744/RabbiStoneBlowingShofar.jpgThis September, just a few days before Rosh Hashanah, there will be a mammoth People’s Climate March in mid-town Manhattan, either on Saturday, September 20, or Sunday, Sept. 21.
 
The Shalom Center is working to organize a Jewish contingent (and if the March is held on Shabbat, September 20, a morning Shabbat service as well).
 
Imagine 100 shofar-blowers sounding forth the Ram’s Horn of warning and transformation at the head of a Jewish/ Multireligious contingent on the March!

 This past Tuesday night, I took part in the first planning session for the March. About 230 people showed up –- from religious groups, labor unions, poverty-action groups, environmentalists, students, elders, health-care activists, and many more.

There was a very strong sense of excitement about both the numbers and diversity of people present, and a sense it will be possible to bring 200,000 people or more into the streets around one demand: “Climate Action Now!”  (Participants may have their own signs, etc. There will be no civil disobedience as part of the March; if groups wish to take such action, they should do so the next day.)

Permit negotiations with the NY Police Department continue, and the actual day depends partly on that. Possible line of march (not yet certain) might be from Lincoln Square to Times Square to Union Square. There will be no “rally” with speakers, etc.

Buses, trains, car-pools, etc from beyond the five boroughs of NYC are welcome!

So I would like to raise the possibility that Jewish congregations and organizastions from Boston to Washington DC might support this March, maybe become co-sponsors and join perhaps with others in their town to send a bus.

On Rosh Hashanah, just a few days later (starting Wednesday evening, Sept. 24) there begins not only the new year as it does every year, but a special year –- the biblical seventh year, the Sabbatical Year or Shmita (“release, non-attachment”).

The Shmita/ Sabbatical Year is intended to be a year of healing and freedom for the Earth, annulment of debts, an opening beyond the usual economic and political constrictions of human society —  what might be called eco-social justice. (See Lev. 25 and Deut 15.)

How do we prepare to turn the ancient Shmita of farmers and shepherds toward healing for our wounded Earth today? The March itself is a first step – and it must not stop there.

Through study, through ourselves becoming the Great Shofar of history, we can learn to act together to prevent disaster and instead grow seeds of change into a flourishing world of shared and sustainable sustenance.

From study into action!

 “Awake to protect and heal the Earth!”

“Awake to protect the poor, the hungry, assailed by flood and famine!”

“Awake to heal YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Breath of Life, as it chokes from the overdose of CO2 burned into our world-wide breath, Earth’s atmosphere!”

So action is needed. Yet clear action, effective action, action deeply rooted in our spiritual selves, requires study. So please take part in one of these study opportunities. Learn in the midst of joy!


To sign up an organization as a co-sponsor of the March, click here:
http://peoplesclimatemarch.org/
 

For groups or individuals to sign up for a Jewish and/or multireligious contingent on the March, please click to:
https://theshalomcenter.org/civicrm/petition/sign?sid=12&reset=>1


Photo: "Rabbi Warren Stone blowing Shofar at UN COP 15 as an Awakening Call to UN and World Community on Climate Change." http://www.prweb.com/releases/2009/12/prweb3341424.htm  The press release, while not directly related to the above action, speaks to the same issue and is reproduced below:

Bethesda, MD (PRWEB) December 15, 2009

As the climate summit reaches new momentum in Copenhagen, a coalition of United States religious organizations, the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care, (nrccc.net) has presented a collection of religion body resolutions and statements on Climate Change to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and President Barack Obama stating that climate change is a moral and ethical issue, and urges the UN to act now to pass a global treaty to reduce CO2 emissions for the sake of humanity.

Major U.S. religious organizations over the past several years have issued numerous statements about the threats posed by changes caused by humans to the world’s climate. Roman Catholics, Jews, Mainline Protestants and most Evangelicals are united in seeing spiritual implications to the problems represented by human actions.
“In a world where matters of faith so often and so tragically to divide us, there is no issue that aligns us more deeply than our shared dependence upon and sacred responsibility to this tiny planet, enfolded within its fragile atmosphere, spinning in the vastness of time and space,” states Rabbi Warren Stone from UN Summit in Copenhagen.

Speaking on behalf of the Roman Catholic bishops, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, from Washington, DC, declared, “Climate change is a profoundly moral and spiritual problem.” Catholic bishops are very concerned and they will be promoting a new Climate Covenant. They will take the message on the seriousness of climate change to every Catholic parish in America.

Cardinal McCarrick’s statement reflects the position of Pope Benedict XVI: “Attention to climate change is a matter of grave importance for the entire human family," said Pope Benedict XVI before a gathering in Saint Peter’s Square.


Rabbi Warren Stone, representing the National Religious Coalition on Creation Care (http://www.nrccc.net) and representing the CCAR, URJ and 22 national Jewish organizations at the Copenhagen UN, declared, “Our religious traditions compel us to act boldly for justice. This is something we all share in common and it is a shared source of strength and inspiration upon which we must draw. There is no one fixed or easy answer. Now is the time to act.”

Rabbi Stone presented these statements to the Office of Secretary Ban Ki-Moon and President Barack Obama’s White House and urged rapid and bold action for the sake of humanity.

The Rev. Michael Livingston, president of the National Council of Churches, observed “We agree on the need to protect God's creation. It has become clear that global warming will have devastating impact on those in poverty around the world.”

The Rev. Owen Owens, past chair of the National Council of Churches Eco-Justice stated: “This is one of the most serious issues society faces. Every major religious organization has a statement on climate change and calls for strong action to hold off this threat to the future welfare of our planet. "

Dr. Thomas English, Creation Care Educator of the Presbyterian Church (USA), from San Diego, California, states: “Global warming will result in mass extinctions of plants and animals by the end of the century. These extinctions will profoundly disrupt the food web for people over the entire Earth. People will attempt to ease their suffering by migration to other countries. Global migration will increase international tensions.”
 
Three years ago, 86 top U.S. evangelical Christian leaders launched the Evangelical Climate Initiative, which calls upon all Christians to push for legislation to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The Rev. Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals, says that global warning is also a social justice issue. He added, "Climate changes, in terms of famine, in terms of the inability to grow crops, in terms of the flooding of islands, most affects the poor, but the front edge of disaster is most going to affect those who have the least.”

Mrs. Connie Hanson, an evangelical Presbyterian and president of Christians Caring for Creation, in Pasadena, California said: “Climate change is already disrupting the lives of many people and it is threatening many of God's precious creatures, often the most vulnerable of the Lord's children.”
 
The Rev. Richard Cizik, former vice president for the National Association of Evangelicals, said: “this is not a matter of political persuasion so much as moral leadership.”

Eastern Orthodox Christians are also concerned about climate change. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has convened a series of international symposia to study environmental challenges declared that climate change is “a profoundly moral and spiritual problem.” “We urge every person to realize their responsibility and to do whatever they can to avert the increase of the earth’s temperature.”

The Rev. John Chryssavgis, of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese stated: There is no longer room for negotiating with nature. We must assume courageous initiatives toward the treatment of the earth's resources and assume leadership in supporting the burden of the poor.”

Rabbi Warren Stone, who serves as co-chair for the NRCCC, observed that Copenhagen will serve as a stage for the next step in the world’s response to climate change. “We are called by our religious traditions to serve as a bold voice for justice. Climate change will have a dramatic impact on hundreds of millions of the poorest people on our planet, especially those who live in coastal areas.

“In Judaism there is a profound and powerful mandate for caring for the Earth. In a world where matters of faith so often and so tragically to divide us, there is no issue that aligns us more deeply than our shared dependence upon and sacred responsibility to this tiny planet, enfolded within its fragile atmosphere, spinning in the vastness of time and space," states Rabbi Stone.

“It is our moral responsibility to the world community,” continued Rabbi Stone, “to take decisive action now! A treaty and legislation, though helpful, will not be enough. We need to change our way of life toward sustainability. Religious communities understand the importance of spiritual values as guiding our choices. We need to shift the way we live toward more sustainability. Our common future demands nothing less. Now is the time for a cultural shift in our way of living.” 

For More Information Contact:
Rabbi Warren Stone, NRCCC.net & Temple Emanuel, 301-942-2000
Frederick Kruger, NRCC.net, 707-573-3161

 

2014-05-19

Shofar Sculpture at Ahavas Chesid, Mobile, AL


A 16 ft.-long sculpture of a shofar is displayed outside Ahavas Chesed Synagogue in Mobile, AL. It was made by Mobile artist Casey Downing and commissioned by Abe, Arlene and Mayer Mitchell. The idealized geometry of the sculpture is also seen in the mostly abstract work shown in the artist's online portfolio.

“Other than the seven-branched menorah,” says Rabbi Steve Silberman, of Ahavas Chesed, “the shofar is perhaps the most ancient of all Jewish symbols. It stands out in our history as an identifier.”

Photo credit: www.al.com/

Quote and other information: http://blog.al.com/living-press-register/2010/09/sounds_of_the_shofar_blowing_o.html

2014-04-14

18th Century Shofar


In collection of North Carolina Museum of Art
http://www.ncartmuseum.org/art/detail/shofar
Title: Shofar
Date:
Artist:
Dimensions: L. 15 1/2 in. (39.4 cm)
Medium: Horn: carved, pierced, engraved
Credit Line: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Shertz
Object Number: G.75.16.3

Culture: German
Inscriptions: Translation: [side A] Happy is the people who know the joyful shout; [side B] O Lord, they walk in the light of Your presence [Ps 89:15] [Translation: March 2011 by Benjamin D. Gordon, Ph.D. Candidate, Duke University]
Department: Judaic

Pesach and Shofar

Pesach and Shofar

Arthur L. Finkle

The shofar sounds during all the holidays in the Jewish year. During Pesach, the shofar is sounded 9-times as a part of the Temple ceremony performed on Passover.

Jn Mishnah Pesachim 5:5 mentioned the sole of the shofar blasts

They blew the shofar a sustained, a quavering and a sustained not [three times]. Neusner, Mishnah


In Mishnah Pesachim 64, it states

The priests stood in rows, and in their hands were basins (to received blood) of silver and basins of gold; a row which was entirely of silver was of silver, and a row which was entirely of gold was of gold: they were not mixed; and the basins had no [flat] bottoms, lest they put them down and the blood become congealed. the Israelite killed [the lamb], and the priest caught [the blood]; he handed it to his colleague and his colleague [passed it on] to his colleague; and he received the full [basin] and gave back the empty one.( thus it was worked on the ‘endless-chain’ system.)
The priest nearest the altar sprinkled it once over against the base [or the altar].the first division [then] went out and the second entered; the second went out and the third entered. as the manner of the first [group], so was the manner of the second and the third. they recited the hallel
The Talmud in Pesachim 64b gives an example of the great number of people who entered Jerusalem and partook in this mitzvah by retelling that one year King Agrippa wanted to count the number of people. He instructed the high priest to count the number of sacrifices that were brought as the sacrifice (Korbán Pesach). When they reached 1,200,000 the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) stopped the count. This was double the number of people who had left Egypt.

There was usually a lamb for each family. Interestingly the Ethiopian Jews, who were cut off from Rabbinic Judaism, still perform the lamb ceremony. .

The Torah requires that the sacrifice be offered publicly. On the 14 day of Nisan the Kohanim (Priests) would open the doors of the temple and allow the people in with their offerings in three large groups of no less than thirty people but each group had many, many more than that. When the courtyard was filled with people, they would close and bolt the doors. The Kohanim would stand in long lines shoulder to shoulder from the courtyard of the people into the courtyard where only Kohanim could enter all the way to the foot of the altar.

The first man would come with his lamb and slaughter it in front of the first Kohen who would catch the blood in golden holy vessels and pass it to the next  Kohen and so forth until it arrived at the base of the altar where the blood was deposited. The vessels had a round bottom to them so that the Kohanim could not put them down even for a moment in order to prevent the blood from coagulating rending the offering unfit. The vessels would be passed from Cohen to Cohen back and forth. The person would then move to the next station where the carcass was hung from a hook and skinned and the prohibited fats and other parts were removed. They were placed into a vessel, and salted then moved to the altar in the same fashion as the blood but these were burned on the altar.

Behind the Kohanim on a platform stood the Choir of Levites. When the process began, the Shofar was sounded tekia; teruah;  tekia and the Hallel prayer was chanted by the choir. This continued until the entire group that had been let in had finished offering both the Pesach offering and also the other sacrifice for the holiday called the Hagiga offering. (The first meat eaten was the meat of the Hagiga sacrifice and then later the Passover Sacrifice which was eaten with bitter herbs and matzah.)





Generally, there were two other groups that repeated this process.

Origin of Hallel
The Hallel consists of Psalms 113 through 118 and is a central prayer in Judaism. It is recited by observant Jews as praise and thanksgiving on Jewish holidays, including Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot and on other occasions such as Hanukkah and Rosh Chodesh. The following steps will show how to recite the hallel for Passover.

Rabbinic tradition credits King David with having written almost all of the Psalms, including those which now make up Hallel. R. Eleazar ben Yosé, however, ascribed Hallel to Moses and the Israelites; while R. Judah taught that the prophets had decreed that these psalms be recited to mark national events and deliverance from peril. Other sages maintained that Hallel was recited by various leaders of Israel throughout the biblical period----by Joshua, Deborah, and Hezekiah, by Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, by Mordecai and Esther (Pes. l l7a-118a).

They would chant the Hallel for each group at least three times. Accordingly, there were nine shofar blasts. When all of this was finished they would allow the next group in after the first group left. This occurred three times. If the 14th day of Nisan were Shabbat, everything was done the same way except that the people could not take the meat home with them until after Shabbat.

         


2014-04-10

Reptile Shofar?

Rhino iguana.
(Photographer: Frank C. Müller , 07.07.2007, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nashornleguan7_fcm.jpg,
licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.)
I was under the impression that only mammals have horns, defined as a boney protuberance from the skull covered with a keratin sheath. I now know that several types of reptiles also have horns.  The photo shows, for example, a rhino iguana (rhinoceros iguana), Cyclura cornuta, with horns on its snout.  Horned lizards also have true horns, see Horned Lizard Conservation Society.

It is very unlikely that the small horns on these animals could ever be fabricated into a sound-able instrument, but contemplating the possibility of a reptile shofar raises the question of whether a shofar can be made from a non-kosher species. I will not attempt to answer that question, except to point out that Rabbi Natan Slifkin says that the horn of a triceratops dinosaur could be a shofar:
A species that "would indeed potentially be a viable shofar, and would be the sole case of a shofar from a non-kosher animal, is a triceratops. However, the keratin sheath from which the shofar is made would only be found on a living specimen. Thus, short of radical advances in cloning technology, à la Jurassic Park, this would not appear to present a practical situation for the halachic discussion." http://www.rationalistjudaism.com/2012/09/olifants-and-triceratops.html 2012-Sep-04

2014-04-07

Responsa: Can shofar have two bores?

QUESTION: If a horn has two bores between the blow hole and the horn cavity, is it acceptable for the mitzvah of hearing shofar?

Inline image 1 BACKGROUND: Jewish law contains many requirements about what qualifies a ram's horn from use as a shofar.  For example, a shofar can not be turned inside out, patched together from two horns, or have sidewall perforations.

I fabricated a horn with two bores between the blow hole and the horn cavity. This was not my intention. But when the first bore failed to find the horn cavity, I made a second bore that was more successful. Later, while cleaning the instrument, the first bore penetrated into the cavity. So now it has two blow holes.

I wrote to several shofar scholars to ask if they saw any reason to disqualify the shofar.

DISCUSSION: My correspondents agreed that they had not heard or read anything about this question. Natan Slifkin, author of Exotic Shofars, wrote, "I don't see why it would be a problem."  Maurice Kamins, a master shofar maker, offered, more conservatively, that perhaps it should be used only if a more "proper" shofar is not available.

The question may be pedantic as a double-bore shofar be made into a single-bore horn in at least two ways:
1) It may be possible to plug one of the bores. Would it be necessary to do so with horn material, as is required to patch a perforation in the sidewall of a shofar?
2) Another fix would be to enlarge the two bores until they were joined into a single, large bore.

ACOUSTIC IMPLICATIONS: Kamins modified an existing shofar by drilling a second bore. He writes, "as best I can tell the only thing having two bores in the shofar does is kill the sound. Drilling two bores into the shofar turned a bad sounding shofar into a terrible sounding shofar." My double-barrel shofar also had a mediocre sound, and was very difficult to sound.

MY OPINION: An anatomic analogy illustrates the problem. A breath, either an inhalation or exhalation, has a single flow of air. Yet when the air passes through the nose it flows through two nostrils. Similarly, the flow of air is separated into two lungs. These doubled passages are like a shofar with two bores.*

What is critical is that the shofar and shofar blast have integrity - a single breath of air passing through a single horn to create a single sound to communicate with Adonai Echad - the single God.


I invite other opinions.


* Few individuals can breath through mouth and nose simultaneously, so the analogy does not apply to horns with three or more bores.
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ALTERNATIVE OPINION: The double-barrel horn is not a shofar because it is a "tuber". 

("two bore", get it?)
 
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