Passing the shofar—from generation to generation

by | Sep 11, 2015 | Featured

At three-years-old, Sam Sachs was visiting his grandparents’ house when he picked up one of his great grandpa’s (Rabbi Sam Sobel, of blessed memory) old shofars.

“He just blew the roof off the house,” says his mother, Jenny Sachs. “For my entire life, I cannot get any noise to come out of a shofar. But he just does it!”

Now six, Sam is the proud—and musically loud— owner of a new shofar. The animal horn, used for millennia as a call to prayer for the Jewish people, most memorably during the High Holidays, was a special gift from his mother and father, Matthew Sachs. They brought it to Sam following a mission trip to Israel in June with the Young Adult Division of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

Sam brought his instrument to the Sandler Family Campus on September 4 to meet Marty Einhorn, the shofar blower, or ba’al tekiah, for Ohef Sholom Temple.

The two took turns blowing into their horns, creating strong and clear sounds that welcomed the Sabbath and fascinated all who heard them play.

Before parting, Einhorn taught Sam a blowing technique, encouraged him to practice, and invited the first grader to bring his shofar to High Holiday services at Ohef Sholom. The young man agreed, his excitement evident. The moment was nostalgic for Einhorn, who, along with mentoring other shofar blowers, also had an affinity for the shofar at a young age.

Einhorn, president of the Simon Family JCC and managing shareholder of Wall, Einhorn and Chernitzer, a CPA and consulting firm in downtown Norfolk, shared his experiences as a shofar blower with the Jewish News:

How long have you been blowing the shofar?
When I was a young boy, I always was amazed by the shofar, and always looked forward to that part of the services. I had an interest in it, and when I took up the coronet in the sixth grade, that is when I realized it was something that I wanted to do. I’ve been playing shofar since I was 11 years old.

What is the most difficult shofar call for any shofar blower to play?
Typically shofar blowers dread the tekiah gedolah. But also the teruah, where you have to do the nine staccato notes–those can be very difficult also.

What’s the feeling you get when you blow the shofar at the synagogue? Is it transcendental for you, or are you fully present?
When I’m sounding the shofar, I am looking into people’s eyes. I am trying to connect. I believe that God is channeling this through me, to be perfectly honest with you. So I am just trying to be as relaxed as I can be, make sure that I’ve got lungs full of air, and I blow as well as I can.

I feel, when I get the opportunity to blow the shofar at the service, that I have a tremendous blessing and a tremendous responsibility, because a lot of people see it as a highlight of the High Holidays. So I take it very, very seriously, and I try to inspire people and raise their spirits, especially on Yom Kippur, when it’s time for us to repent. I feel like I’m contributing to people’s spiritual experience.

by Laine Mednick Rutherford