Monday, September 2, 2013

ROSH HASHANA: Antelope’s, bull’s and ram’s Shofar. Which one is Kosher?

The typical Shofar used for Rosh haShana is the ram's Shofar (qeren hakebasim). Lately, however, the antelope shofar (also known as the 'greater kudu' or 'Yemenite' Shofar, see here) which is 3 to 4 times longer than a ram's Shofar became very popular. Probably because it is easier to blow than the ram's Shofar, looks impressive and has a beautiful deeper sound.

Can we use the antelope Shofar for Rosh haShana? 

An antelope Shofar is perfectly fine to be used for the Selihot of the month of Elul, for those who blow the Shofar during Elul, and for the end of Yom Kippur.

For Rosh haShana, however, using an antelope Shofar is a matter of controversy.

The Rabbis discussed the usage of horns of other bovid-animals for the Mitzva of Shofar. And they explicitly forbade using a bull's-horn (keren shel para) for a Shofar. That Shofar will bring memories of the sin of the golden calf, precisely on the day we hope our sins to be erased. A ram's Shofar, on the contrary, brings a positive memory to mind: 'aqedat Yitzhaq, the binding of Yitzhaq abinu. Why? Because after our forefather Abraham passed succesfully the ultimate test of love of God, he found a ram 'caught in the thicket by its horns', which he then offered to haShem as a sacrifice in place of Yitzhaq.

Now, if the bull's Shofar, is excluded and the ram's Shofar is the preferred one, can we still use the antelope Shofar or any other non-bovid Shofar in Rosh haShana? Or, are we obligated to use exclusively a ram's Shofar? 
The Rabbis debated on this issue. In the  opinion of the Shulhan 'arukh (OH 586:1) it is preferable to use a ram's Shofar in Rosh haShana. Which means, for instance, that if a ram's Shofar cannot be found, the antelope Shofar could be used (=bedi'abad). In the opinion of Maimonides (MT Shofar 1:1), however,  the only Shofar that can be blown in Rosh haShana is a ram's Shofar. All other Shofarot are invalid.


Sample Reel for 'Above and Beyond: The Birth of the Israeli Air Force' - Playmount Productions
 The Birth of the Israeli Air Force