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Blessed Blasts

Blessed Blasts

A shofar blower, in more ways than one, must be willing to take the bull by the horns.

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If you're having a good time, you're having a blast. If you're igniting a stick of dynamite or launching a rocket ship, you're having a blast. If you run into an old friend, you're having a blast . . . from the past. (If you literally run into an old friend, really hard, then you're going to get blasted . . . with a lawsuit.) But, those who are having the best blasts of all hopefully are the shofar blowers on Rosh Hashanah.

A shofar blower may be the only Jew who is expected to make a lot of noise in shul.

A shofar is not really a musical instrument but it could be described as the kosher clarinet, Hebrew harmonica or Jew Kazoo. A shofar may be harvested from certain animals, most notably rams, and are sold in most Judaica stores, especially those located on Cape Horn.

A shofar blower may be the only Jew who is expected to make a lot of noise during davening. In fact, the kosher cacophony produced by shofar blowing is talmudically required, though the key mitzvah is for the audience to hear each and every shofar blast. Many rabbis wish a similar rule would apply to their sermons but, alas, there is no formal requirement to listen to a rabbi's speech. There also is no formal requirement to serve toothpick-stabbed herring at a kiddish, but that one seems to go without saying at most synagogues.

Shofar blowers train all year round for a single event, sort of like Megillah readers, Sukkah builders and dreidel spinners. Shofar blowers arguably receive the most attention but, ironically, they are neither blowhards nor full of hot air. They usually are relatively mild-mannered and modest and, in further irony, rarely blow their tops or toot their own horns.

Many shofar blowers offer their services gratis and do not act like divas. They may only demand only (i) a free seat in shul, (ii) bottled water and (iii) entry into a witness protection program in the event an angry ram comes looking for its missing appendage. In that connection, a shofar blower, in more ways than one, must be willing to take the bull by the horns.

Many congregants enjoy critiquing a shofar-blower's performance, offering their own blow-by-blow accounts as though they are reporting for the Daily Bugle. Consequently, every wrong note, muffled sound or incomplete blast is magnified on a very public level and could be a crushing blow to the shofar blower's career. It's a lot of pressure and scrutiny, which can make for a (trum)petrifying and (trom)bone-shaking experience.

Shofar blowers are forced to save their best for last and somehow must muster the power and precision to pull off the lung-busting, ear-splitting and death-defying (or deaf-defying) Tekiya Gedolah. It's sort of like when the legendary Whitney Houston sang her massive hit, “I Will Always Love You,” which required her to breathlessly belt out the song’s epic end. (“And I-I-I-I-e-I, will always love youuuuu!) The Tekiya Gedolah, however, has its limits. It should not last as long as "Stairway to Heaven" or "Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie."

To be clear, there is no substitute for hearing the shofar blast. For example, the blowing of the shofar cannot be replaced by:

  • crying babies: one who missed a nap (Tekiya), one who missed a meal (Shevarim Teruah) and one who missed a diaper change (Tekiya Gedolah);

  • whiny, spoiled brats: one who did not get a new toy (Tekiya), one who did not get a new car (Shevarim Teruah) and one who did not get a new trust fund (Tekiya Gedolah); or

  • angry married adults: one whose spouse made a mistake (Tekiya), one whose spouse made a mess (Shevarim Teruah) and one whose spouse made a scene (Tekiya Gedolah).

The shofar blowing experience can be somewhat confusing for the uninitiated so let's explain it through song. Please sing the lyrics below to Bob Dylan's classic tune, "Blowin’ in the Wind":

How many times must a rabbi go "shhhhh,"
before the whole shul quiets down?
How many kids must be given very stern looks,
before they stand still and calm down?
Yes, and how many times must the shofar blower try,
before he blasts a kosher sound?
The shofar, my friend, is blowin' once again
The shofar is blowin' once again.

Yes, and how many blasts is a kosher Shevarim?
The answer of course is only three.
Yes, and how many blasts is a kosher Teruah?
The answer is nine, obviously.
Yes, and how long can a Tekiya Gedolah last?
Just as long as the blower can breathe.
The shofar, my friend, is blowin' once again
The shofar is blowin' once again.

Bottom-line: Even if a underperforming shofar blower needs a pep-talk, scolding them as follows actually may backfire: "Hey Mr. Shofar Blower, you really need to do a good job this year . . . so don't blow it." (Care to rephrase that?)

September 16, 2017

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Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Chaim Leib, September 18, 2017 4:14 PM

TAKE THE BULL BY THE HORNS


Excuse me but, that should be "take the RAM by the horns"

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