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What does a beginning shofar blower need to know to correctly make the sounds?

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On Rosh Hashana I heard somebody say something like: if you can't get to a public shofar blowing, at least this is a commandment that is relatively easy to fulfill on your own -- most people, this person said, can get acceptable sound out of a shofar with a little practice. This person immediately qualified the statement, though, saying that of course there are halachot about how to make each of the sounds, how long they have to be, when to breathe, and I can't remember if this person enumerated any others. I didn't have the chance to ask more about this at the time.

I know that teruah must be short staccato sounds (nine of them, but I don't know if there can be more), that shevarim must be longer than teruah and rising (three of them), and that tekiah must be one longer blast. Every tekiah I've heard has been longer than the accompanying shevarim; I don't know if that's halacha or just how we do it. But what else? What are the "beginner-level" minimum requirements? Do you have to make the sounds a certain way, like tonguing the teruah versus just blowing lots of short blasts? Are there minimum lengths for shevarim and tekiah? And what's this about when you can/can't breathe? What else, aside from the musical aspects and assuming a kosher shofar, does a beginner need to know to correctly perform this mitzvah?

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1 comment

Similar to many mitzvos, there is a machlokes on almost all of your questions... ‭Dani‭ about 1 month ago

1 answer

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My Rabbi approved the following post:

https://wp.yise.org/shofar/

which includes some basic Halachos and a short video by Craig Simon. Craig blew all over the neighborhood today (as did others - there were more than 40 "not during Davening" shofar blowings in the neighborhood!), including around the corner from me (very convenient for my family that didn't get to Shul). Key points matching your questions:

  • Tekiah for Teruah or Shevarim equivalent to 9 Teruah sounds, ~ 1.5 seconds
  • Tekiah for Shevarim-Teruah equivalent to double that, ~ 3 seconds
  • No maximum Tekiah
  • Shevarim should be the length of 3 Teruah sounds, not longer.
  • Teruah can be more than 9 sounds.

What I have heard regarding "breathe/can't breathe" is whether to take a breath between Shevarim and Teruah of Shevarim-Teruah. I have heard different opinions on that - if I remember correctly the distinction is sometimes made between the Shofar blasts before Mussaf (1st 30) and during Mussaf (3 groups of 10).

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Be careful with this! This is indeed a valid opinion, that of Rashi, but Tosfos argue on almost every point mentioned here. Please ask your Rabbi for next year if you plan to blow for yourself. ‭DonielF‭ about 1 month ago

@DonielF I know there are probably different opinions on every piece of this. But it is a starting point until someone is able to write a more comprehensive answer. ‭manassehkatz‭ about 1 month ago

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