Sounding the Shofar at the Western Wall in 1967

Below is a transcript of a live broadcast on Voice of Israel Radio, June 7th, 1967, as IDF forces liberate the Temple Mount and the Western Wall. The recording is now housed in the archives of the Avi Yaffe Recording Studio in Jerusalem.

In addition to the sounds of gunfire, commands, singing and weeping, the shofar was sounded, first by Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam and later by Rabbi Shlomo Goren. Until then, during the Ottoman and the British occupation of Jerusalem, Jews were not allowed to sound the shofar at the Western Wall. The dramatic moment when Rabbi Goren blew the shofar inspired Israeli poetess and song-writerlyricist Naomi Shemer to add a line to her famous song, Jerusalem of Gold, that reads, “A Shofar calls out from the Temple Mount in the Old City.”

Colonel Motta Gur [on loudspeaker]: All company commanders, we’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City. Eitan’s tanks will advance on the left and will enter the Lion’s Gate. The final rendezvous will be on the open square above.

Yossi Ronen: We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City. The head of the force is about to enter the Old City. [Gunfire.] There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City. [Sound of gunfire and soldiers’ footsteps; yelling of commands to soldiers; more soldiers’ footsteps.] The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper fire here and there. [Gunfire.]

We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian Church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us.

The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here. We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City. [Gunfire.]

Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands! All forces, stop firing! This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over.

Commander eight-nine here, is this Motta (Gur) talking? Over.

[Inaudible response on the army wireless by Motta Gur.]

Uzi Narkiss: Motta, there’s nobody like you. You’re next to the Mosque of Omar.

Yossi Ronen: I’m driving fast through the Lion’s Gate all the way inside the Old City. Command on the army wireless: Search the area, make sure to enter every single house, but do not touch anything. Especially in holy places.

[Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam blows the Shofar. Soldiers are singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’.]

Uzi Narkiss: Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there? Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.

Soldiers: [reciting the ‘Shehechianu’ blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. [Translation: Blessed art Thou Lord God King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day]

Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. [Translation: Blessed are thou, who comforts Zion and bulids Jerusalem] Soldiers: Amen! [Soldiers sing ‘Hatikva’ next to the Western Wall.]

Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel: [Soldiers weeping; Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar.] El male rahamim, shohen ba-meromim. Hamtse menuha nahona al kanfei hashina, be-maalot kedoshim, giborim ve-tehorim, kezohar harakiya meirim u-mazhirim. Ve-nishmot halalei tsava hagana le-yisrael, she-naflu be-maaraha zot, neged oievei yisrael, ve-shnaflu al kedushat Hashem ha-am ve-ha’arets, ve-shichrur Beit Hamikdash, Har Habayit, Hakotel ha-ma’aravi veyerushalayim ir ha-elokim. Be-gan eden tehe menuhatam. Lahen ba’al ha-rahamim, yastirem beseter knafav le-olamim. Ve-yitsror be-tsror ha-hayim et nishmatam adoshem hu nahlatam, ve-yanuhu be-shalom al mishkavam [soldiers weeping loud]ve-ya’amdu le-goralam le-kets ha- yamim ve-nomar amen!

[Translation: Merciful God in heaven, may the heroes and the pure, be under thy Divine wings, among the holy and the pure who shine bright as the sky, and the souls of soldiers of the Israeli army who fell in this war against the enemies of Israel, who fell for their loyalty to God and the land of Israel, who fell for the liberation of the Temple, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and Jerusalem the city of the Lord. May their place of rest be in paradise. Merciful One, O keep their souls forever alive under Thy protective wings. The Lord being their heritage, may they rest in peace, for they shalt rest and stand up for their allotted portion at the end of the days, and let us say, Amen.]

[Soldiers are weeping. Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar. Sound of gunfire in the background.]

Rabbi Goren: Le-shana HA-ZOT be-Yerushalayim ha-b’nuya, be-yerushalayim ha-atika! [Translation: This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of old!]

Shofar odor and cleaning tips

If you keep coming across references to shofar odor, don’t be alarmed. It’s not so bad. In fact, personally I would rather have a slight animal scent than a sanitized hospital or factory scent. After all, a shofar comes from an animal, not a manufacturing plant. And G-d wants us to keep that in mind when we blow it.

The source of the odor is remnants of particles of muscle, sinew or bone or blood-eating bacteria. Professional shofar makers heat the shofar to a high temperature, which kills the bacteria, rendering it harmless.

When Isaac blessed Jacob, Isaac said, “My son’s fragrance is like the fragrance of the field blessed by Hashem.” Jacob, of course, was wearing animal skins on his hands and neck, demonstrating that an animal smell is not necessarily a bad odor.

Still, if your shofar has an odor you find a bit too strong, you can try cleaning the shofar with any of the following:

  • Synthetic vinegar
  • Arak
  • Mouthwash
  • Baking soda solution
  • Aquarium gravel (avoid large or sharp pieces)

Just press your thumb against the mouthpiece, fill it with one of the above and shake thoroughly.

Never soak a shofar in oil (including olive oil) or liquid, which can damage it. Whichever method you use to clean the shofar be sure to rinse out the liquid with water to avoid causing permanent damage to the shofar.

A final option is to spend a few dollars on a bottle of Shofar OdorFree, a natural, biodegradable spray solution.

What are the main shofar sounds?

Although it seems like the main mitzvah of hearing the shofar is the first set of 30 shofar blasts sounded in succession after the Shofar Blessing is recited, in fact the mitzvah is really to hear the shofar integrated with the Mussaf for Rosh Hashanah, therefore the central shofar blowing is actually the three breaks during Mussaf when the shofar is sounded.

This point is explained clearly in the Chayei Adam (142):

עיקר התקיעות הוא לתקוע על סדר הברכות כחוזר ה”ץ תפילת המוספים שתוקעים למלכיות ולזכרונות ולופרות ומדינא הוא לתקוע על כל ברכה תר”ת ולפי הספק שנסתפקו בתרועה היה לנו לתקוע על כל ברכה תר”ת פ”א ותש”ת פ”א ותר”ת פ”א וכן נוהגין במקצת מקומות אך כיון תקנו חז”ל לתקוע קודם מוסף והם נקראין תקיעות דמיושב ר”ל שעדיין הקהל יובין ולאעומדין בתפילה והטעם שתקנו כן לערבב השטן שלא יקטרג בתפילת המוספין ובתקיעותיהן

If we are required to hear Tekiah-Teruah-Tekiah repeated three times, it would seem that at each of these junctures we should hear all three possible variations, i.e. the same 30 sounds repeated three times during Mussaf — in conjunction with Malchuyos, Zichronos and Shofaros.

Yet the prevailing custom is to play only a single variation of Tekiah-Teruah-Tekiah each time. Why is that considered good enough?

Confounding Satan

First we have to understand the reason for the initial 30 shofar sounds, known as Tekios D’Meyushav. This custom is intended to confound Satan so that he cannot act as  a Prosecutor during Mussaf and the Mussaf shofar blasts. For Satan is alarmed by the sound of the shofar, which is a reminder of the Great Shofar to be heard in the future Redemption.

And it shall comes to pass on that day that  a Great Shofar shall be blown, nd they shall come who were lost in the land of Ashur, and the outcasts in the land of Egypt, and shall worship the Lord on the holy mountain of Jerusalem. (Yeshayahu 27:13)

Upon hearing the Great Shofar the Satan, i.e. death and the Evil Inclination, will be eradicated from the face of the Earth.

And He will destroy on this mountain, the covering that is cast over all the people, and the veil that is spread over all the nations. He iwll destroy death forever and the Lord G-d ill wipe away tears from all faces… (Yeshayahua 25:8).

Since in essence the congregation fulfills the mitzvah through those initial 30 blasts, Chazal did not want to impose an unnecessary burden on the congregation by requiring them to be played another three times.

Andy why was the “Shevarim-Teruah” variation chosen? Because in a way it is the safest bet. If the true Teruah is “Shevarim” you hear it; if the true Teruah is what we refer today as Teruah, you hear it. The only problem is that perhaps you are hearing an extra note, rather than the three notes in succession. But this is considered a minor enough concern that we avoid imposing a burden on the congregation.

Shofar sounds: Groaning and weeping

The Torah could have commanded us to arouse ourselves to tshuvah by looking at a startling sight or by sniffing a powerful scent. But instead we are commanded, at the start of the year, to a hear a sound. That sound must come from a shofar, connecting us, through a primeval instrument, to other spiritual planes.

The big question then is what exact sound must we hear? There is an extended discussion in the Gemara about how to fulfill the mitzvah of hearing the shofar. And because certain doubts remain unresolved, we sound the required set of nine shofar blasts three times, each time in a slightly different manner.

The core of the dispute is how to interpret the word תרועה. The Torah tells us (Bamidbar 29: 1) that we must have a day of teruah: יום תרועה יהיה לכם. And elsewhere (Vayikra 23:23-25) we are commanded to have a day of remembrance during which the shofar is sounded.

דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשְּׁבִיעִי בְּאֶחָד
לַחֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם שַׁבָּתוֹן זִכְרוֹן תְּרוּעָה מִקְרָא קֹדֶשׁ

It’s not an easy verse to translate, but roughly it comes out to “it shall be a Sabbath for you, a remembrance of [Israel through] the shofar blast, a holy occasion.”

Then the Gemara (Rosh Hashana 33b) tells us as follows:

מר סבר גנוחי גנח ומר סבר ילולי יליל

Interestingly, the Gemara says any tone that comes from the shofar is fine, whether it is a thin, high-pitched tone (e.g. from a small ram’s horn shofar) or a deep baritone (e.g. from a long kudu shofar).

The first opinion says we should similate moaning and groaning with the shofar. According to the other opinion, the shofar sound should resemble the rapid, truncuated sound of weeping.

At first glance this does not seem to fit in with the spirit of Rosh Hashana. But perhaps the idea is simply that sometimes, when are emotions are stirred, we feel a need to express those emotions vocally (e.g. crying, sighing). On Rosh Hashana, to truly forge and feel a powerful connection with Our Father in Heaven, we have to create an emotional release through sounding the shofar. As if we are letting loose a great sigh: ‘Father, I’m coming home!’