Which animal horns may be used

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Which animal horns may be used for blowing Shofar on Rosh Hashanah?[1]

Introduction: Only those horns that are defined as a Shofar as opposed to Keren are valid to be used for blowing Shofar. The following will discuss the definition of a Keren and which horns are thus invalid to be used.

The horn of a cow:[2] The horn of a cow and ox[3] [despite them being Kosher animals and containing cartilage[4]], are invalid.[5]  If one used this horn to blow Shofar he has not fulfilled his obligation.

Horns with cartilage:[6] The term Shofar refers specifically to hollow horns which have cartilage growing inside filling their hollow space.[7] This negates the horns of majority of non-domestic animals of which their horn grows as a single bone without cartilage and hence their horns are not considered a Shofar. If one used such a horn he has not fulfilled his obligation just as is the law regarding one who used the horn of a cow or ox.

Horns of non-Kosher animals:[8] The horns of non-kosher species of animals are invalid even Bedieved.[9]

Example of animals with Kosher horns:[10] The horn of a sheep, ram and goat are valid as they contain cartilage and are hence called a Shofar.

The horn of a ram:[11] It is a Mitzvah Min Hamuvchar to blow the Shofar using the horn of a ram.[12] If however one does not have a rams horn available he fulfills his obligation with the other Kosher horns [mentioned above].

A curved horn:[13] It is a Mitzvah to blow on Rosh Hashanah with a curved shaped horn.[14] If however such a horn is not available one may blow with a straight horn.[15]


Summary:

Initially one must use a curved horn of a ram for blowing Shofar. If one does not have such a horn available than the following are the laws of other Kosher horns:

 

A Kosher horn must contain the following:

  1. Cartilage
  2. Derive from a Kosher species.
  3. Not be from a cow or ox.

 

The ideal Kosher horn is to also contain in addition to the above:

  1. Curved shape
  2. Come from a ram

 

List of Kosher animal horns:

  1. Ram
  2. Goat
  3. Sheep

 

Q&A

From what age is a ram considered an “Ayal” rather than a sheep?[16]

When a sheep reaches the age of 13 months it is considered an Ayal. If it is below this age then it is still considered a sheep.

 

Are the horns of female rams [Ewe] initially valid?[17]

Yes. The horns of a female ram are considered valid ram horns.

 

Is the horn of a mix breed animal Kosher?[18]

If the mix breed comes from both a male and female animal of which their species of Shofar is valid, then it is valid. If however the male or female parent is from a species that their Shofar is invalid, then this Shofar is likewise invalid.

 

Are the horns of a buffalo valid?[19]

No.[20]

 

Must one purchase a Shofar that contains a Hashgacha [Rabbinical supervision]?[21]

Yes, as one must verify that the horn comes from a Kosher animal and has fulfilled the above mentioned requirements.

 

If one only has either a curved non-ram horn or a straight ram horn available which one is better to use to blow Shofar?[22]

Some[23] Poskim rule it is better to use the curved horn.[24] Others[25] rule there is no advantage of one over the other in such a case and one may hence use whichever horn he chooses.[26] Practically it is best to use the curved horn in place of the straight horn of a ram.[27]

 


[1] 586/1-3

[2] 586/1; Michaber 586/1

[3] Admur ibid; Levush; M”A 586/2; P”M 586 A”A 2; Chayeh Adam 140/2; M”E 586/1; M”B 586/6; Kaf Hachaim 586/10

[4] Peri Megadim 586 A.A. 2

[5] The reason: The reason for this is because the horn of a cow and ox is referred to as a “Keren” and not as a “Shofar” as it says in the verse “Bechor Shoro.. Vekarnei Reim Karnav”, and only horns which the Torah considers a Shofar are valid for the blowing. [ibid; M”A 586/2] Vetzaruch Iyun Gadol as the rams horn is also referred to as a Keren [in the Parsha of Akeidas Yitzchak] and nevertheless not only is it valid but it is the best type of Shofar to use.

[6] 586/1; Michaber 586/1

[7] As the word Shofar comes from the term Shofaros which implies that there are many horns [i.e. Cartilage] within the horn that are able to be peeled off, such as the horns of a ram and goat. [ibid]

[8] 586/3; Rama 586/1

Other Opinions: There are opinions that rule that Bedieved horns of non-Kosher species are valid. [see Peri Megadim 586 A.A. 3]

[9] The reason: The reason for this is because only Kosher items are allowed to be used to perform Heavenly commands. [Admur ibid; M”A 586/3] This is learned from the law by Tefillin that only Kosher items may be used to make the Tefillin and the entire Torah is connected to Tefillin. [M”A ibid]

[10] 586/1

[11] 586/2; Michaber 586/1

[12] The reason: The reason for this is because [the ram was substituted as a sacrifice during Akeidas Yitzchak and thus] we blow using a rams horn to invoke memory of Akeidas Yitzchak. [Admur ibid; M”A 586/1] This implies that we do so to arouse Hashem’s memory of Akeidas Yitzchak and hence bring a merciful judgment. See Gemara R”H 16a “Rebbe Avahu stated: Why do we blow with the horn of a ram? Hashem said “Blow before me the horn of a ram in order so I remember the Akeida of Yitzchak the son of Avraham and consider it as if you also sacrificed yourselves by the Akeida.”

[13] 586/1; Michaber 586/1

[14] The reason: This is in order to affect the listeners, to subjugate their hearts to G-d through prayer. [Admur ibid; M”A 586/1]

[15] 586/2; As the requirement to use a curved horn is only initially, and Bedieved if one blew using a straight horn he has fulfilled his obligation, and in a case that there are no curved horns available it is defined as Bedieved and one may hence use a straight horn. [ibid]

[16] Kaf Hachaim 586/2; Mishneh Parah 1/3

[17] M”B 586/2 in name of Taz; Elya Raba; and Mateh Efraim

[18] Siddur Yaavetz; Kaf Hachaim 586/15

[19] Sheilas Yaavetz 1/50; Shaareiy Teshuvah 586/3; Kaf Hachaim 586/11

[20] The reason: As the Buffalo is considered a species of oxen which is invalid due to being part of the cow species. [ibid]

[21] Piskeiy Teshuvos 586 footnote 5

[22] Kaf Hachaim 586/4

Opinion of Admur:

On the one hand Admur 586/2 records the ruling of the Bach that initially one may not use the horns of other animals, and hence it seems a non-ram horn and a straight horn have an equal disadvantage. On the other hand Admur writes that not only are non-ram horns valid Bedieved but even curved horns are valid Bedieved hence implying that curved horns are a greater disadvantage than a ram horn. This is also implied from the fact Admur records that using a ram horn is only a Mitzvah Min Hamuvchar and not an initial requirement from the letter of the law. Vetzaruch Iyun

[23] Taz 586/1

[24] As a rams horn is only required for a Mitzvah Min Hamuvchar while a curved horn is initially required from the letter of the law, hence we see that a curved horn is of greater advantage than a rams horn which is straight. [Taz ibid]

[25] Mamar Mordechai 586/1; Peri Megadim 586 A.A. 1

[26] As the Michaber lists both the issue of having a ram’s horn and a curved horn in a single sentence with the same level of command. Hence according to the Michaber in Shulchan Aruch [as opposed to the Beis Yosef] there is no advantage of one over the other. This follows the ruling of the Bach that it is only Bedieved allowed to use a non-ram horn and it is not simply a Mitzvah Min Hamuvchar. Hence both a straight horn and non-ram horn are equally initially prohibited and Bedieved permitted, and there is no advantage of one over the other. [Kaf Hachaim ibid]

[27] M”B 586/5; Kaf Hachaim ibid

The reason: Most Poskim rule a curved horn is required from the letter of the law while a ram horn is merely a custom. [M”B ibid] Alternatively since everyone agrees that there is no problem to use the curved horn, and the Taz holds that one must use the curved horn in such a case one should therefore use the curved horn in order to avoid dispute. [Kaf Hachaim ibid] 

 

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