Shofar is a wind musical instrument usually made from a horn of a ram or a goat, but could also be from Kudu or Oryx horns. In Semitic languages, the word shofar and the name of the mountain ram are single-root words.
The mention of the sounds of the shofar was first encountered when describing the Sinai revelation (Exodus 19:16). The sounds of the shofar should have announced the coming of the jubilee year (Lev. 25: 9, 10). The shofar is an indispensable attribute of the celebration of Rosh Hashanah; this celebration in the Torah is called the name of the trumpet (`trumpet sounds day`; Num. 29: 1). Apparently, in the biblical era, it was customary to combine the sounds of the shofar with playing other musical instruments — trumpets, flutes, etc. (Ps. 95: 6). During mass processions, they were trumpeting into horns to convene citizens. Sometimes the shofar announced the start of hostilities or an impending disaster.
During the Second Temple period, the shofar was only blown on Rosh Hashanah and some fasting days. The shofar during this period acquired a predominantly ritual character and became part of the temple ritual. During the Temple period, according to the testimony of the Mishnah, Jews blew into shofar on Rosh Hashanah only in the Temple. Perhaps, in the days of public fasts, trumpets were also blown outside the Temple. After the destruction of the Temple, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur began to blow their horn in the synagogues during prayers.
According to traditional interpretations, the sounds of shofars on the day of Rosh Hashanah reinforce the solemnity, induce worshipers to repentance, and, according to popular belief, they should confuse Satan, who on this day of the court is the accuser.
In the Middle Ages, it became customary to trumpet the shofar at the end of the morning service throughout the Hebrew month of Elul. In the Talmudic era, the shofar was trumpeted on the eve and at the end of holidays and Saturdays to alert the people. This custom has been preserved only in the ceremony of the Exodus of Yom Kippur, during which those present wishes each other the following year to meet in Jerusalem. The combination of trumpet sounds with the Messianic desire gave the shofar a new symbolic meaning.
In 1948, when Jews in Yom Kippur trumpeted at the shofar at the Western Wall, the Arabs considered this a political act and protested. The shofar was also blown during the battles for the Temple Mount in 1967 during the Six-Day War. In the State of Israel, it is customary to trumpet into the shofar in various ceremonies, including secular ones. Thus, they trumpet into shofar when the new president of Israel takes office. Sometimes the shofar is trumped during mass demonstrations, especially those of religious Jews.
In various communities, the shofars differ from each other. The Ashkenazi shofar is treated and polished outside and inside, and it is crescent-shaped. Sephardic shofars are long and twisted. Artisans who pass the tradition from generation to generation are engaged in the manufacture of shofars.
Already in the era of the Second Temple, the shofar was part of the national symbolism. Images of the shofar can be found in the mosaic decorations of the ancient synagogues.