Yesterday and today are Rosh Chodesh Elul, the start of the Hebrew month that leads up to Rosh Hashanah. There is a Jewish custom to sound the shofar each morning (except Shabbat) throughout the month until the day before the New Year. Hearing the shfoar every morning may act as a wake-up call, a spiritual alarm clock reminding us to focus on the spiritual renewal the new year can bring.
If you don't have access to your own shofar, and your daily travels don't bring you by somewhere you might be able to hear someone else blowing the shofar, you can thank God for the internet. (There's some debate about whether it "counts" to hear the shofar online rather than in person. If you're worried, ask your rabbi. But if you ask me, I say it's better than not hearing any shofar at all.) Youtube has countless videos of people sounding the shofar in various settings for a variety of reasons. Here are some of my favorites.
First, a general "everything you need to know about the Shofar" 5-minute documentary. There were several to choose from, but this one is hosted by a British guy, which totally makes him sound more authoritative to my Bostonian ears:
Next, a couple of videos specific to the Boston area. Did you know the World Record for simultaneous shofar blowings was set in Swampscott? Although I can't find an official listing on the Guiness Book of World Records web site, here's an article from the Salem News about the event, captured in the video below.
Singer-songwriter Regina Spektor is a favorite of Jewish hipsters because she's a proud member of the tribe. Last year, she happened to be performing at the House of Blues in Boston around Rosh Hashanah and surprised her fans with a little shofar solo.
Finally, perhaps the coolest video I found in my exploration of shofar videos on YouTube, is this one, defying everything I know about the shofar. For years I've explained to my non-Jewish friends that the shofar isn't really a musical instrument in the sense that you can't really create distinct notes or play songs. Well, a fellow named David Zasloff proves me wrong with this incredible rendition of Hatikvah, the national anthem of Israel:
Photo of man blowing a shofar from Flickr user FotoFyli.
David Levy is the marketing director of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. From 2010 to 2013, he was editor of JewishBoston.com.