In terms of its Jewish history, the shofar is often mentioned in the Tanach, Talmud and in rabbinic literature. It was used to announce the start of holidays, in processions and even to mark the start of a war. Perhaps the most famous biblical reference to the shofar occurs in the Book of Joshua, where shofarot (plural of shofar) were used as part of a battle plan to capture the city of Jericho:
According to the story, Joshua followed God’s commandments to the letter and the walls of Jericho fell, allowing them to capture the city. The shofar is also mentioned earlier in the Tanach, when Moses ascends Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.
During the times of the First and Second Temple, shofarot were also used along with trumpets to mark important occasions and ceremonies.
The Shofar On Rosh HaShanah
Today the shofar is most commonly used on the Jewish New Year, called Rosh HaShanah (meaning “head of the year” in Hebrew). In fact, the shofar is such an important part of this holiday that another name for Rosh HaShanah is Yom Teruah, which means “day of the shofar blast” in Hebrew. The shofar is blown one hundred times on each of the two days of Rosh HaShanah. If one of the days of Rosh HaShanah falls on Shabbat, however, the shofar is not blown.
According to the famous Jewish philosopher Maimonides, the sound of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah is meant to wake up soul and turn its attention to the important task of repentance (teshuvah).