Shofar Buying Guide
A ram's horn shofar or Yemenite shofar from HaSOFER: a unique and significant gift that will long be remembered by the bar mitzvah boy or other person receiving it!
All ram's horn and Yemenite shofars sold by HaSOFER are made in Israel, certified kosher by HaSOFER's rabbinical supervisors and checked by our staff for quality of sound and ease of use. Each shofar bears a numbered kashrut certification sticker.
Where do shofars come from?
Traditional ram's horn shofars are made from the horns of sheep while Yemenite shofars are made from the horns of kudu antelope. Kudu are found almost exclusively in eastern and southern Africa. These true horns, unlike the antlers of deer, have a bony core that is actually an extension of one of the bones of the animal's skull. The specialized layer of skin that covers this core of bone contains the protein keratin that makes the horn, and later the shofar, extremely tough and durable.
No two animal horns look alike and no two shofars sound exactly the same. As the ram and kudu grow older, their horns get larger and become more and more twisted into a curve or even a spiral, especially with rams. Horns of older rams often form two or three complete loops. Larger ram's horn shofars are more difficult to get today due to widespread animal diseases and stringent veterinary requirements of the Israel Health Ministry which oversees their import.
Types of shofars:
Classic twisted ram's horn shofars are by far the most common shofar in use by Jews of all backgrounds. HaSOFER's classic shofars come in your choice of smooth-polished or natural horn finish. Most shofars are light in color, but HaSOFER also has a large stock of black shofars in most sizes, made from the black horns of black rams.
Flat ram's horn shofars, used commonly by German and Moroccan Jews, have a unique flat, straight shape with upturned end.
Bavli shofars have a natural unfinished ram's horn finish and a very deep sound. Bavli shofars are commonly used by Iraqi and Iranian Jews.
Yemenite shofars, made from the horns of kudu antelope, are very long, with a characteristic spiral shape.
How are shofars made?
To make a ram or kudu horn into a shofar, the horn must be drilled out from one end to the other. The hole drilled is small in diameter at the mouthpiece, but most of the thickness of the rest of the horn is completely hollowed out until the very end. Drilling out the horn to create the shofar must be done with great care. Any hole made in the side of the shofar renders it non-kosher.
Since most ram and kudu horns when cut off the animals are twisted or even completely looped around, the horn is first heated in boiling water to make it pliable. It is then stretched until it is straight enough to be drilled. Once the drilling is completed, the shofar is twisted into the familiar curved or spiral shape and either left in its natural state or polished. Decorations are sometimes added to the shofar, most commonly silver or painted leather coverings. However decorations that cover any of the surface area of the shofar also render it non-kosher: such shofars serve as decorative pieces only.
The critical mouthpiece area of the shofar remains kosher even if the opening is very close to one edge. This can happen during the drilling if the shofar shifts to one side or the other due to the condition of the bone. Sometimes the drilling process leaves the shofar's mouthpiece rough or with small pieces of loose bone flaking off. You can smooth out this area of your shofar with careful, light sandpapering.
Never soak a shofar in olive oil or any other oil or liquid as this may damage it. Some people recommend rinsing the inside of the shofar with vinegar or arak, but if you do so clean out the liquid immediately to avoid permanently damaging the shofar.
The length of a shofar has no bearing on whether or not it is kosher! The only difference between a child-size shofar and adult sizes mini through super is the shofar's total length. All are kosher and can be used for Rosh HaShannah. The smaller sizes are popular with soldiers, people who are traveling, or those visiting the bed-ridden or hospital-bound. Larger size shofars are deeper in sound. Adult sizes medium and large are the most popular for synagogue shofar blowing use.
The larger the finished shofar, the larger the raw horn required to make it. Since kosher animals with very large horns are rare and these larger horns are more difficult to make into shofars, prices of the larger shofars are much greater than those of the smaller ones.