Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Striking Right Note for Tradition

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Striking Right Note for Tradition

Article excerpt

Barry Honig is a former Tenafly councilman and a businessman who can address large crowds without flinching. But sounding the ancient musical horn -- known as the shofar -- on the High Holy Days gives him stage fright.

"It's a very meaningful event, so it's a nerve-racking responsibility," said Honig, who is the master blaster at Lubavitch on the Palisades in Tenafly. "You really have to get it right."

Honig was inspired to try the ritual wind instrument because his father trumpeted it while serving in the Navy. For Honig, who is sight challenged and has difficulty reading a prayer book, shofar blowing offers a rare opportunity to lead worshipers in a spiritual ritual. Its awe-inspiring sound, he said, reminds him of the clarion's call in the movie "The Ten Commandments."

Shofar is Hebrew for ram's horn, whose piercing song is the highlight of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year, which begins tonight. The holiday will usher in the year 5777 through introspection, prayer, celebratory meals and symbolic foods. But the shofar is its main attraction.

It dates to biblical times and was used in festivals in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, said Arthur Finkle, a professor at Kean University and author of three books on the shofar.

Among the first musical instruments in the world, the shofar has remained unchanged. "There are no new developments or new models. Each one is made individually, not manufactured," Finkle said, adding that most today are produced in Israel. But the wail of each shofar is unique, depending on size and shape.

Besides Rosh Hashana, it is sounded at the end of services on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, which falls this year on Oct. 12.

Blowing the shofar at the Rosh Hashana service is a more complex endeavor than tooting a horn. Three sounds in combinations are blown for a total of 100 blasts. The rabbi, or caller, recites the notes by their Hebrew names and the shofar sounder responds: Tekiah is a long blast, Shevarim is three broken notes and Teruah consists of nine staccato sounds. Each sound carries a different meaning.

The cry of the shofar serves on Rosh Hashana as "a spiritual alarm clock reminding us to do good," said Andy Abrams, an attorney whose annual trumpeting at Temple Beth Tikvah in Wayne has earned him celebrity status akin to that of a Jewish Miles Davis or Louis Armstrong.

"All the kids come and gather around to hear the shofar blower, and the old folks grab my hand and give me this incredible look of gratitude. It's a great honor and responsibility to be able to move everyone to this place of spiritual uplift," said Abrams, who played the trumpet as a youngster before moving on to the shofar. "You know it's something these kids will always remember."

The shofar is not an easy instrument to master. …

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