A man blowing a shofar

The blowing of the shofar (Hebrew: תקיעת שופר, Hebrew pronunciation: [t(e)kiˈ(ʔ)at ʃoˈfaʁ]) is a ritual performed by Jews on Rosh Hashanah. The shofar is a musical horn, typically made of a ram's horn. Jewish law requires that the shofar be blown 30 times on each day of Rosh Hashanah, and by custom it is blown 100 or 101 times on each day.

Speak unto the children of Israel, saying: In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall be a solemn rest unto you, a memorial proclaimed with the blast of horns, a holy convocation.[1]

Modern practice

Initially, the blasts made by the ram's horn were blown during the first standing prayer (Amidah) on the Jewish New Year, but by a rabbinic edict, it was enacted that they be blown only during the Mussaf-prayer, because of an incident that happened, whereby congregants who blew the horn during the first standing prayer were suspected by their enemies of staging a war-call and were massacred.[2] Even though the underlining motive for the rabbinic enactment was no longer prevalent in ensuing generations, their enactment still stands and is practised by all Jewish communities to this very day, to blow the ram's horn only during the Mussaf-prayer.

Types of blast

The following blast are blown on Rosh Hashanah:

Combinations of blasts

The blasts are blown in the following set groups:

Place in the prayer service

Shofar sound for Rosh Hashana, Ashkenaz version, preceded by two blessings

In Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities, it is customary to hear 100 or 101 or 102 sounds in the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah morning, although the minimum requirement is to hear 30 sounds. The sounds are scheduled as follows:

According to all opinions, the mitzvah is fulfilled by hearing the initial set of 30 blasts. Thus, if a person cannot attend the synagogue prayers, they will commonly arrange for a shofar blower to visit and blow only 30 blasts for them.

Additional laws

Duration of the notes

Among Ashkenazi and Sephardic communities, the teruah is blown as nine very short notes, while the shevarim is blown as three longer notes, each equal in duration to three short notes. The tekiah must be longer than the blast which it comes before and after. Thus the tekiah must be more than 9 short notes in duration when blowing TaRaT or TaShaT, and more than 18 short notes when blowing TaShRaT.[7][8][9]

The Shulchan Aruch rules that the minimum length of a teruah and tekiah are identical, but agrees that a longer teruah is also valid.[10] In Yemen, the practice was to make the teruah double the length of a tekiah.[11] Each community is advised to follow its ancestral tradition.

Pausing between shevarim and teruah

When shevarim and teruah are blown together, a dispute exists whether they must be blown in a single breath, or whether one may pause (for a duration of no longer than a breath) between them.[12] The Shulchan Aruch suggests that "one who fears God" should blow in a single breath before Mussaf, and with two breaths during Mussaf.[13] The Chazon Ish adopted this practice.[14] However, general Ashkenazi custom is to always stop for breath between shevarim and teruah, both before and during Mussaf (but not between the three blasts of shevarim).[15]

Rabbi Yihya Saleh, explaining the Yemenite custom, wrote that a breath is taken between shevarim and teruah, both before and during Mussaf.[16] In this regard, the Yemenite practice was more lenient than that of the Shulchan Aruch.[17]


Initial 9 blasts

The Torah twice defines Rosh Hashanah as a day of teruah or horn-blowing (Leviticus 23:24, Numbers 29:1), without specifying exactly how this is to be done.

The rabbis of the Talmud concluded that a shofar must be used for this blowing,[18] and that each teruah must be preceded and followed by a tekiah.[19] Since the word teruah appears three times in the Torah in connection with holidays of the seventh month, the rabbis concluded that a teruah must be blown three times,[20] making a total of nine blasts (three sets of tekiah-teruah-tekiah).[21][22][23] The three sets also correspond to the three special blessings of Mussaf: malchiyot, zichronot, and shofarot.

From 9 to 30 blasts

In the Talmudic era, doubts arose regarding the correct sound of the teruah blast - whether it should be a series of short, lilting blasts similar to a person moaning (now known as shevarim), or else a staccato beat sound similar to a person whimpering (now known as teruah), or else a combination of the two sounds (shevarim-teruah).[24] Therefore, Rav Abbahu of Caesarea (3rd century CE), ruled that shofar blowing should be performed according to each of the three possibilities:

If tekiah, shevarim-teruah, tekiah is considered to be four blasts, then Rabbi Abbahu's requirement makes for a total of 30 blasts.[25]

According to another opinion, Rabbi Abbahu instituted a total of 12 rather than 30 blasts, specifically tekiah, shevarim-teruah, tekiah repeated three times.[26] However, modern halacha accepts the opinion that 30 blasts are blown.[27]

From 30 to 100 blasts

A man blowing a shofar

The Talmud specifies that the shofar is blown on two occasions on Rosh Hashana: once while "sitting" (before the Mussaf prayer), and once while "standing" (during the Mussaf prayer).[28] This increases the number of blasts from the basic requirement of 30, to 40, 42, or 60, based on the above-mentioned opinions.

The Arukh mentions a custom to blow 100 blasts: 30 before Mussaf, 30 during the Mussaf silent prayer, 30 during the cantor's loud repetition of Mussaf, and 10 more after Mussaf.[29][30] The final 10 blasts are by tradition dating to the Geonim, and in some communities are blown in the middle of "Kaddish Tiskabal."[31] Blowing 100 (or 101 or 102) blasts is nearly universal today (with the exception of many Yemenite and Spanish Portuguese Jews), although many congregations omit the 30 blasts in the silent prayer, and instead blow 40 after Mussaf, and some communities do only 10 (or 12) during the repetition and blow 60 afterwards.[31][32]

The number 100 in the Arukh is intended to correspond to the tears which Sisera's mother is said to have shed when her son was killed in battle.[29] (The Hebrew word used to describe her wailing is wateyabev (ותיבב‎); this is cognate to yevava (יבבה‎), the Aramaic translation of teruah.[30]) The short Biblical story of Sisera's mother contains 101 letters;[33] while the Arukh only mentions 100 blasts. This discrepancy is explained by saying that while each shofar blast is intended to "nullify" one of her cries due to hatred of Israel, nevertheless we leave her one tear out of recognition of the pain suffered by any bereaved mother.[34] In any case, Sephardic communities typically blow 101 blasts, with the 101st symbolizing her legitimate mourning.[34][35]

Symbolic meaning

A Haredi man blowing a shofar

Maimonides wrote that even though the blowing of the shofar is a Biblical statute, it is also a symbolic "wake-up call", stirring Jews to mend their ways and repent: "Sleepers, wake up from your slumber! Examine your ways and repent and remember your Creator."[36]

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook suggested that the doubt whether the shofar sound is supposed to be short, intermittent blasts (Shevarim), like a person groaning in remorse, or a series of short, staccato bursts (Teru'ah), like the uncontrolled wailing of a person in extreme anguish and grief,[37] may be connected to Maimonides’ explanation. Some people are moved to better themselves due to an intellectual recognition that something was seriously amiss in their lives. Their shofar sounds – what motivates them to repent – are the heavy sighs and groans of the introspective individual, the Shevarim. For others, the stimulus comes from the heart. They are moved by the overwhelming pain and anguish of a person who has lost his way – the emotional outburst and wailing of the Teru’ah. The most effective form of repentance, however, utilizes the strengths of both faculties, the emotions and the intellect, combining together the Shevarim and the Teru'ah.[38]


  1. ^ The Jewish Bible. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society. 1917.
  2. ^ Mishnah (Rosh Hashana 4:7 [8]), where once it was customary to blow the shofar during the first standing prayer (Amidah), rather than during the Mussaf-prayer. Later, the practice was changed to make the horn blasts only during the Mussaf-prayer, because of an incident that happened during the Amida. Cf. Babylonian Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 32b). The ruling not to change the rabbinic enactment (even when conditions have returned to what they formerly were) is brought down in Maimonides (Hil. Mamrim 2:2-3) and also in Rabbi Isaac ibn Ghiyyat's work on Hil. Rosh Hashanah, printed in "Sefer Sha'arei Simha", part I, Firta 1861. The Jerusalem Talmud (Rosh Hashanah 4:8) explains the reason for this change of custom regarding the shofar blasts as being when a certain congregation blew the ram's horn during Amidah, the enemies of Israel thought that it signaled a war-call against the neighboring gentiles, and they rushed into the synagogue and killed the entire Jewish congregation who had gathered there to pray.
  3. ^ First opinion Shulchan Aruch 592:1.
  4. ^ Domb, Yoel (9 October 2015). "Why Do We Blow 100 Blasts of the Shofar?". Hidabroot.com. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  5. ^ Second opinion Shulchan Aruch 592:1.
  6. ^ Rama Shulchan Aruch 592:1.
  7. ^ Mishnah Berurah 590:13-15
  8. ^ Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 129:13
  9. ^ Yalkut Yosef, Moadim p.55
  10. ^ Orach Chaim 590:3
  11. ^ Maimonides, Mishne Torah, Hilchot Shofar 3:4
  12. ^ Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 590:4-5; Mishna Berura, ad loc
  13. ^ Orach Chaim 590:4
  14. ^ Chazon Ish, Hilchot Rosh Hashanah, 136
  15. ^ Rabbi Moses Isserles, Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, 590:4
  16. ^ Tiklāal Etz Hayyim. Vol. III. Jerusalem. 1894. p. 70a.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link) (Commentary Etz Hayyim on the Baladi-rite Siddur)
  17. ^ Rabbi Yosef Qafih, while explaining the same Yemenite custom as he had seen it, writes that in the TaShaT series, "the custom and instruction that was widely accepted in Yemen was to make the [three] short lilting blasts (Shevarim) in [only] one breath, while the [three] short lilting blasts (Shevarim) and the long quavering blast (Teru'ah) in the [first] series known under the mnemonics as TaSHRaT, [and] which are [blown] when the congregation sits, are all done in one breath. Moreover, those [same blasts] (i.e. the Shevarim and the Teru'ah) that are made when standing are done in two breaths. And thus do I have it as a practice, etc." (See: Rabbi Yosef Qafih's Commentary on Maimonides' Mishne Torah, Seder Zemanim (part ii), Hilchot Shofar, ch. 3, vs. 3, footnote # 3, Kiryat Ono 1986 [Hebrew]). Cf. Tur 590:4 who brings down the aforesaid dispute in the names of Rabbeinu Tam and Rabbi Isaac ibn Giat.
  18. ^ "Rosh Hashanah 33b:11". www.sefaria.org.
  19. ^ "Rosh Hashanah 33b:13". www.sefaria.org.
  20. ^ "Rosh Hashanah 34a:2". www.sefaria.org.
  21. ^ Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 4:9; Tosefta, Rosh Hashanah 4:9
  22. ^ Yosef Qafih (ed.), Mishnah, with Maimonides' Commentary, Mossad Harav Kook: Jerusalem 1963, s.v. Rosh Hashanah 4:9 (p. 217)
  23. ^ Rabbi Isaac ibn Ghiyyat, Sha'arei Simḥa, Hil. Rosh Hashanah, Furta 1861, p. 38 (Hebrew)
  24. ^ "Rosh Hashanah 34a:21". www.sefaria.org.
  25. ^ She'iltoth de'Rav Achai Gaon, P. ve'Zoth Ha-berachah, # 170 - Le-Rosh Hashanah: Translation: "One must blow a sustained blast (teki'ah), three [short] lilting blasts (shevarim), a quavering blast (teru'ah) and a sustained blast (teki'ah), seeing that Rabbi Abbahu enacted in Caesarea the mnemonics: TaSHRaK (teki'ah, shevarim, teru'ah and teki'ah), TaSHaK (teki'ah, shevarim, and teki'ah), TaRaK (teki'ah, teru'ah, and teki'ah)."; Maimonides, Mishne Torah (Hilchot Shofar VeLulav 3:2–3)
  26. ^ Isaac Alfasi, Halakhot (Rosh Hashanah 10b); see Bar-Ilan, Prof. Meir. "תקנת ר' אבהו בקיסרי" [R. Abahu's decree in the Kessari] (in Hebrew). Archived from the original on 10 December 2014. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  27. ^ Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 590:2
  28. ^ Rosh Hashana 16a. The reason given is "to confuse Satan".
  29. ^ a b Arukh 272:1; mentioned in Tosafot Rosh Hashana 33b s.v. שעור
  30. ^ a b Ben-David, Rabbi Yaron. "מאה תקיעות בראש השנה" [A hundred blasts on Rosh Hashanah]. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  31. ^ a b "ד – מנהג מאה תקיעות" [The Custom of a Hundred Blasts] (in Hebrew). 4 April 2015. Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  32. ^ Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 129:17, et seq.
  33. ^ There are 101 Hebrew letters in Judges 5:28-29, not including verses 5:30-31.
  34. ^ a b Kitov, Rabbi Eliyahu. "One Hundred Sounds". Retrieved 7 October 2018.
  35. ^ Arthur L. Finkle, Shofar: History, Technique and Jewish Law, (Saarbrücken, Germany: Hadassah Word Press, 2015)
  36. ^ Mishneh Torah, Laws of Repentance 3:4.
  37. ^ See Rosh Hashana 33b, where the Biblical name for Rosh Hashana ("Yom Teruah") is translated to Aramaic as "Yom Yababa"; the word "Yababa" is also used to describing the crying of Sisera's mother (Judges 5:28) when she moaned the loss of her son.
  38. ^ Morrison, Chanan; Kook, Abraham Isaac (2010). Silver from the Land of Israel: A new light on the Sabbath and Holidays from the writings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac HaKohen Kook. Urim Publications. pp. 56–58. ISBN 978-9655240429.