On Sunday, September 9, Rabbi Sruli Deitsch of the Chabad of Bronxville presented a shofar factory workshop for the Young Israel of New Rochelle Youth Department. YINR was only one of Rabbi Deitsch’s stops in the month of Elul preparing children and their parents for Rosh Hashanah.
“We are here to make our own shofars,” began Rabbi Deitsch. “You have all seen a traditional shofar, but to have your very own shofar is very special. Our goal today is to take a horn from an animal and to make it usable and kosher and you can get a sound out.”
Rabbi Deitsch showed the group many types of animal horns, including antelope and goat. Some were beautiful and straight, while others were curved. For a horn to be considered as a shofar, the Torah needs to refer to that type of horn as a shofar. For example, a buffalo horn is not kosher because it is called a keren, or a crown, in the Torah and not a shofar.
Rabbi Deitsch then explained that we use a ram over a goat, as a remembrance of Akaidat Yitzchak. Avraham saw a ram with its horns stuck in the bushes, which he sacrificed instead of Isaac.
“You don’t usually see small shofars; only long ones,” Rabbi Deitsch continued. “There are no laws on how long a shofar can be but there are laws on how small it can be. It says in the Shulchan Aruch, the smallest shofar needs to be seen from either side of your hand. People hearing you blow a shofar need to see the shofar, and are not just hearing a sound you are making from your mouth.” The rabbi also noted that it is easier to blow a large shofar over a small one.
As part of the workshop, Rabbi Deitsch distributed horns to each child. The outside of animal horn is made of keratin, like fingernails. The inner core is made of bone. These horns were already hollow, having been soaked in acids for hours on high flames, which helps remove the bony inside. The first step in making one’s own shofar is sanding the horn’s exterior. Next, the tip is sawed off to expose where the horn begins to be hollow. The hole at the narrow side is then widened by drilling, which helps when you blow. After drilling, the mouthpiece is sanded for two reasons. First, it makes it clean, and second, it is very hard to blow on something flat. The final step is the glazing of the Shofar, when a layer of shellac is applied.
“This is why shofars in stores are very shiny,” commented Deitsch.
YINR youth directors, Malky and Ilan Scher, coordinated the workshop to make the holiday more meaningful for the kids. Ilan said, “What better way to connect to the holiday than to ‘bring it home with you’ by making an actual shofar. The sounds of the shofar we will hear in shul are similar to sounds that a person makes when crying. It is specifically these sounds we make with the shofar to symbolize that the day of judgment determines how next year will be, and we need to be scared but confident that it will be a sweet new year. Many times, kids see and hear the shofar in shul, but they don’t get to touch the shofar or make the sounds themselves. It creates this barrier to the experience. Here, we connected with a little bit more than usual.”
The Deitsches run a unique afterschool Jewish Enrichment program in Bronxville called The Aleph Art Room, which inspires Judaism through the universal language of the arts.
Rabbi Deitsch stated, “The children take so much pride and ownership in blowing from the shofar that they sanded, cut, shaped and shellacked by themselves, and fulfill the mitzvah with so much excitement! The shofar is one of the oldest and most authentic Jewish ritual objects. We are blowing the same ram’s horns from the days of Avraham and Moshe.”
Before each Jewish holiday, Rabbi Deitsch brings his creative and hands-on Living Legacy Program to Westchester’s Synagogues and other Jewish facilities. To find out more, visit www.JewishBronxville.com/LivingLegacy.
By Judy Berger