My Second Shofar: (Please read about my first shofar also, below, as it explains about cleaning and beating odor.) This new shofar arrived on 23 March 2009. It is a Judaica product offered by aJudaica.com on their Yemenite Shofars page. This shofar is fabulous. For starters, it does not smell like the kiss of death and there isn't rotting flesh clinging to it (see article on first shofar). This is very good. (Nevertheless, I did anoint the mouthpiece with my Light of Jerusalem myrrh oil because the scent is so pleasing.)
You can request coupon codes from the site owner for aJudaica products, valid through 29Dec12. CLICK HERE
Shofars are measured along their curve. This horn has very deep curves; as the result, its linear length is slightly shorter than my first horn, but its actual length is a hair shy of 45 inches -- an extra large or jumbo horn. (And thankfully, it fits in my shofar case.) It has been given minimal polishing, which I very much like. Polishing makes the horns shiny, but much of the outer surface is lost in the process. Natural horns have many ridges and folds on the surface, so this horn's processing has retained its impressive, original appearance. I much prefer the natural horn.
In my judgment (I'm no expert), this horn has an easy-blow mouthpiece. It's definitely larger than the mouthpiece of the first horn, making it much easier to blow. Unless you're a skilled trumpet, French horn, or shofar player, I recommend easy-blow.
AJudaica is located in Israel. This was an internet transaction. The person I dealt with was gracious, and completely honorable/honest in representing the product, and nature of the transaction, which was a trade of sorts. Integrity is a precious quality.
I have to mention this because I am a lover of natural fabrics. AJudaica has handmade silk tallits. They look wonderful! Do check them out as well.
I stumbled upon the kudu while touring a local nature center, Thousand Islands, Kaukauna, and decided this magnificent creature would be a helpful addition to my shofar page, so everyone who is unaware can see a bearer of these impressive horns.
My First Shofar: I acquired this shofar via an Ebay auction. It's 43 inches and I paid $90.00 total, including shipping.
Shofars are known for their smell. If you are unfamiliar with shofars, be warned -- they stink. Yemenite shofars are made from the horns of the African kudu, an antelope-type creature. Its horns are full of tissue and blood. When the animals are harvested and their horns processed for use as shofars, the horns must be cleaned. I guess the standards must vary. Everyone claims to be selling kosher horns. Many claim their horns are sealed, which is supposed to minimize stink.
In the photo of the inside of the bell, the dark brown stuff is what remains of huge, thick patches of decaying tissue that reeked. Fortunately, I own a Dremel. I tried using the wire brush attachment, but that didn't remove the stuff. Next I tried a sandpaper roller. That didn't work either. What did work, though not with perfect results, was a cone shaped stone grinder. I was able to grind off most of the crud with the stone, but the brown stuff is where crud still remains. I wonder what's still up inside that horn, out of sight.
Following the grinding procedure, I cleaned the horn using various methods: bleach water, Oxi-Clean, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide. (The seller's suggestion was lemon water, which I didn't feel too confident about, so never tried it.) I was able to somewhat minimize the stink this way, but a measure of stink remained. On the mouthpiece end, it smelled like blood. On the bell end, it smelled like the decaying roadkill one encounters during humid summer months. CLEANING INSTRUCTIONS - this was the result of a web search and was very helpful.
As per the cleaning instructions (above link), it said to anoint the horn. I checked prices on the recommended oil and found the Shofar Man's Ebay offering to be the best price for olive oil mixed with frankincense and myrrh. It completely solved the stink issue.
The shofar was, for me, a little hard to blow on. The mouthpiece was very small, though probably of normal size for shofars. I had read about easy-blow mouthpieces, and I'm certain this one was not easy-blow. I do know how to do the lip vibration thing that makes a shofar sound; I used to toot on a friend's French horn, which has a small mouthpiece. Anyway, I put my Dremel to use again to widen the cup of the mouthpiece so my lips would have more open space (don't widen the little hole through the horn). The main reason why I did this was because, with the horn smelling so bad and all, I didn't care to spend a lot of time practicing. I wanted it to sound first time, every time. On its medium pitch note, it certainly does. I needed to practice a bit to get good tone out of the high and low pitches. The horn does have a nice sound to it.
With all this information, you might want to consider saving yourself even more money by buying a kudu horn. These are also available on Ebay -- lots of them. They aren't polished to shine like the processed shofars are, but keep in mind that looks are not the real issue here. Sound is. The best sounds generally come out of the biggest shofars. If you own the right tools, you can cut a mouthpiece. You might want to ask the seller if the guts have been removed from the horn. If so, then just use the link above for cleaning methods.
One other thing: 'I looked the world over for' a case I liked. I was sort of prejudiced to begin with. A woman I knew, who had owned a shofar for a long time, had a nice leather case for her horn, which was a rather short horn. I had tried numerous times to find such a case on the internet, but never got the results I wanted. Then the lightbulb in the head came on -- duh: Why not see if the shofar would fit in my worship flag cases? Well, it did. Flag/shofar bags.
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