5. Conclusions

Space, Time, Authority

The motto of A Tool of Remembrance is a verse from Geoffrey Hartman’s Elegy at the Bodensee: “I had never heard the Shofar applauded, God have mercy[.]” *Chapter 4.46. To Hartman’s poetic subject, the shofar is a sacred instrument for the synagogue instead of a musical instrument for the concert hall and therefore, he is pained by the applause of the audience. On the other hand, the composer Judith Shatin states: “Some people think that it’s inappropriate to use it for a setting outside of the High Holy Days – for its use in concert music. I have not been able to track down any place in the Torah that leads me to think that there’s anything inappropriate about it, . . . I view it as a way of creating a connection to the tradition.” *Chapter 4.55.

There is no happy medium between these two standpoints. Only one of the discussed compositions, Berlinski’s Shofar Service, fits equally well in a concert setting and a synagogue service, though there will be a great difference between the two performances. In a synagogue, the musicians play on behalf of the congregation, of which they may be members; in a concert hall, however, the musicians are contracted by the management and they do not play on behalf of the audience but before the audience, which is anonymous, heterogeneous, and not exclusively Jewish. The audience will need an explanation in order to understand the words and the meaning of the shofar blasts in the composition. They applaud the musicians for the performance and leave the concert hall to turn to the order of the day. The baʿal tekiʿah in the synagogue should be a man of irreproachable conduct; in contrast, the shofar blower in the concert hall is judged only on his artistic performance on the shofar. The former is an amateur, even if he were a qualified musician, whereas the latter is a professional. Mutatis mutandis, all authors of works of art with a shofar do a professional job; their audiences pay them directly or indirectly for their work and, whereas the shofar prayers and blasts in the Bible and the prayer books are the spiritual property of the faithful, works of art with a shofar are the intellectual property of the author, and possibly the publisher.

In the arts, three connections of the shofar with religious tradition are broken. First, the connection with synagogal space. As an artistic instrument, the shofar does not appear on the bimah in the synagogue, but on the stages in public, secular spaces like the concert hall, the theater, the museum, and the street, as well as in private homes. Mass-produced books, pictures, and portable media overcome limitations of space. And whereas the baʿal tekiʿah in the synagogue blows in the direction of Jerusalem, away from the congregation, the performing artist faces his audience. He can play a game with this spatial change, just as S. Anski and Shulamit Ran did, when they staged a synagogue ritual with a shofar in a play and an opera respectively.

Second, the connection with liturgical time. In the synagogue, the shofar is connected with certain days: the month of Elul and the High Holy Days Rosh Ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur. In the arts, its connection with the Jewish liturgical year is no longer self-evident. A work of art can be inspired by other prayers than those of the High Holy Days or based on a unorthodox interpretation. Whereas the shofar prayers and blasts have to be repeated each year on the High Holy Days, a work of art with a shofar can be presented at any moment, independent of the liturgical cycle. Moreover, as a result of recording technique, listening is separated in time from recording the shofar.

Third, the connection with halakhah, rabbinical authority and the traditional interpretation of texts from the Bible and the prayer books. In Bakhtinian terms: the authoritative discourse of the shofar in the traditional religious texts turns into an internally persuasive discourse in the works of art, in which both the voice of tradition and the voice of modernity sound. The shofar blasts in the works of art are not meant to direct the lives of the listeners, readers, or viewers, but to stir their imagination. In contrast to the Bible, those who do not listen to the shofar will not be punished; they only miss the experience of a new, surprising interpretation of shofar tradition.

Despite these three breaks with tradition, every artist who is inspired by the shofar and creates a work of art in the Present enters into a dialogue with these texts from the Past. As discussed in Chapter 1.1, three points of departure are possible, though the point of departure in a section of a work can differ from that in the work as a whole.

In the first point of departure, “the Present is directed by the Past.” *Eliot, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” 4-5. The artist is inspired by verses, whether or not with a shofar, from the Bible, prayer books or other traditional religious texts, or by the shofar blasts themselves, the shofar timbre or the system of shofar blasts from the Rosh Ha-Shanah service.

A second point of departure is another work of art, whether or not inspired by traditional religious texts; here, “the Present is indirectly directed by the Past.”

A third point of departure is, to give a Bakhtinian view, the artist’s “own question,” an artistic, psychological, social or political question, issue or problem. Many traditional religious texts from the Past do not offer ready-made answers for the Present, but they do offer illustrations, comparisons, analogies, arguments, counter-arguments, or simply comfort. Sometimes this third point comes close to the first point of departure, since finding inspiration in traditional religious texts presupposes an interest in them. The classification depends on the primacy in time or importance—or both—of the traditional text in the first point of departure, versus the primacy of the artist’s own question in the third point of departure. Even though the traditional verses and blasts do not change, after the creation of the work of art they will never be interpreted in exactly the same way as before. Therefore, T.S. Eliot argues that “the Past is altered by the Present” and Bakhtin states that the cultures from the Present and the Past both retain their own unity and open totality, while they are mutually enriched. *Bakhtin, “Response to a Question” 7. Below, the points of departure of the artists in the seventy discussed works will be explained.


1. The Present is directed by the Past


The Bible: Verses with a Shofar

The Bible contains two different kinds of shofarot: the “great” shofar, blown by God, and the ordinary shofar, blown by man. The theophany on Mount Sinai, announced by the great shofar, is described in Exod. 19, and very freely rendered by Thomas Mann in his novella The Tables of the Law. An echo of the great shofar can be heard in Arnold Schoenberg’s opera Moses und Aron, when Moses descends from Mount Sinai and discovers the idolatry of the golden calf. In Yechiel Granatstein’s biographical chapter Rosh haShanah in Skarżysko, one of the survivors from the concentration camp makes a daring comparison between God’s great shofar on Mount Sinai and the shofar blown by Rabbi Yitskhak Finkler in the camp. In response to this event, the philosopher Emil Fackenheim distinguishes three key moments in history, when the shofar announces a judgment of humanity: the shofar of the theophany on Mount Sinai, the shofar of Rabbi Finkler in the concentration camp, and the shofar on Mount Sinai, that will announce the end of times. To a lesser degree, this element of judgment is present in many of the discussed works of art.

The majority of the more than seventy scriptural passages with a shofar have a military background. The best-known of them is Josh. 6 about the conquest of Jericho; Jordi Savall considered this story as historical, and on the basis of a problematic argumentation, he composed his spectacular Fanfare of Jericho, 1200 B.C.

In several scriptural passages, the shofar, whether or not with other instruments, accompanies a religious procession or ceremony. In 1 Chron. 13, David brings the Ark to Jerusalem, which inspired Ben Shahn to his painting Third Allegory, in which Ps. 150 plays a part as well. Ps. 81 is a song of praise to God with reminiscences of the exodus from Egypt and God’s commandment to blow the shofar at new moon; Ofer Ben-Amots took this text as a point of departure in his cantata Psalm 81.


The Bible: Verses without a Shofar

Some artists took a scriptural passage without a shofar as their point of departure. Though the ram’s horn is absent from these verses, they all testify to God as a lawgiver, judge, king, or liberator, and these functions are marked by shofar blowing elsewhere in the Bible. Yehuda Amichai’s poem The Real Hero refers to Gen. 22 on the origin of the shofar: the ram, caught in the thicket by its horns and sacrificed by Abraham as a substitute for Isaac. Amichai turns this biblical story upside down: the hero of his poem is the innocent ram, whose horns are made into shofarot to sound battle cries, and the poem is implicitly connected with the Israeli-Lebanese War of 1982.

Exod. 20 on the Ten Commandments, in particular the prohibition of images, and Exod. 32 on the violation of this prohibition in the idolatry of the golden calf, are the subject of Schoenberg’s opera Moses und Aron, which differs from the biblical example, because Moses suffers a defeat in his defense of the prohibition of images against Aron. A powerful French horn blast symbolizes Moses’ wrath about the violation of the Law.

The shofar refers to God’s guidance of Israel in Ernest Bloch’s composition Psalm 114 about the exodus from Egypt and in Marc Chagall’s etching The Deliverance of Jerusalem, inspired by the prophecy of Isa. 52. God’s guidance of the prophets is expressed in the shofar blasts of two works: Judith Shatin’s electro-acoustic composition Elijah’s Chariot about the prophet’s love for children and the story of his ascent to heaven in 2 Kings 2; and Henry Brant’s Prophets, in which passages from Ezek. 10, Joel 2, Jonah 2, and Job 28 about the four elements and the four directions of the wind are chanted by four ḥazzanim at the same time and preceded by shofar blasts.

Stylized shofar blasts announce divine judgment in Bloch’s composition Schelomo, which alludes to three scriptural passages directly or indirectly connected with Solomon: Deut. 17 on the ideal image of a king; 1 Kings 1-11 about Solomon’s kingship and his worship of foreign gods; and the pessimism of Eccl. 1-2. Divine judgment, expressed by shofar blasts, is also present in Bob Gluck’s electronic composition Jonah under the Sea, an attempt to render Jonah’s thoughts and feelings during his drowning in the sea.

Messianic connotations of the shofar blasts are prominently present in Edward Elgar’s oratorio The Apostles, in which the Watchers on the Temple roof sing Ps. 92, a song of praise; here, the rising sun is the bringer of light and at the same time, the symbol of the Christian Messiah Jesus. Elgar’s second point of departure is Luke 6 from the New Testament on Jesus’s prayer on the mountain and his calling of the apostles.


Archaeological Find

The archaeological find of a stone from the Temple wall with an inscription referring to the place of the shofar blowing inspired Paul Celan to his poem The Shofar Place, which in its turn inspired Berio’s composition Shofar, and therefore the latter is indirectly directed by the Past.


Halakhah, Mishnah, Talmud

Few artists took halakhic texts as their point of departure, perhaps because these texts have always remained the intellectual property of the rabbinical elite, whereas the Bible has become a popular text. The two discussed works about the shofar in halakhah, however, are quite popular and humorous in character. A chapter on the shofar from the Mishnah tractate Rosh Ha-Shanah provides the words for Yehezkiel Braun’s cantata Festive Horns. Eliyahu Sidi uses a part of this chapter in his painting From Tractate Rosh Ha-Shanah and in addition, mishnayyot from Mishnah Zevaḥim on animal sacrifices and Mishnah Kinnim on bird sacrifices. The humor in both works springs either from very literal interpretations or anachronistic illustrations of the mishnaic texts. With regard to the Talmud, Edward Elgar took the unusual step of choosing a passage about recruiting day laborers as a point of departure in his Christian oratorio The Apostles, where it concerns Jesus’ calling of the apostles.


Prayer Books: Shofar Prayers

The U-Netanneh Tokef prayer from the Rosh Ha-Shanah service was the point of departure for Uriel Birnbaum’s drawing A Great Shofar Sounds, in which the angel who blows the shofar and announces the judgment appears in the hybrid context of a modern city next to an ancient desert. Of all the discussed works, Herman Berlinski’s cantata Shofar Service is the only one that fits into the synagogal liturgy; it consists of the Malkhuyyot, Zikhronot and Shofarot sections from the Reform Rosh Ha-Shanah service, and a unique feature is the addition of two trumpets, representing the biblical ḥaẓoẓrot.

The tekiʿah gedolah at the end of the Yom Kippur service also concludes H. Leyvik’s poem The Wolf: A Chronicle about the founding of a new Jewish congregation in a ruined shtetl after a murderous pogrom. As soon as the new baʿal tekiʿah blows the shofar, the werewolf storms into the synagogue, where his howling blends with the blast of the ram’s horn. After being hit by the congregation, the dying werewolf turns into the rabbi of the shtetl from before the pogrom.


Prayer Books: Shofar Blasts

The most obvious way of integrating the shofar into a work of art is to quote the traditional blasts, which of course is only possible in a composition, a film, or a play. The traditional shofar blasts are blown in two plays: in an Jewish exorcist ritual in S. Anski’s The Dybbuk, and in an informal, non-traditional setting in Else Lasker-Schüler’s Arthur Aronymus and His Ancestors. Unchanged shofar blasts appear in a number of compositions. Henry Brant uses them in Prophets to announce prophetical texts, chanted by several ḥazzanim at the same time. Elijah’s Chariot by Judith Shatin features the four traditional blasts, repeated by a string quartet, which imitates their pitch, rhythm and timbre. Two shofar blasts announce the birth of Jesus in Miklós Rózsa’s music to the film Ben-Hur. In Osvaldo Golijov’s Tekyah, the film version of which was performed on location in the concentration camp Auschwitz, the shofar blasts are blown in unison by a large group, enhancing the impression of unity in mourning. In Tsippi Fleischer’s Symphony No. 5 “Israeli-Jewish Collage”, another group of shofar blowers appears, and their non-unison blowing might symbolize the disruption in Israeli society. Non-unison blowing has a different meaning in Jordi Savall’s Fanfare of Jericho, 1200 B.C.: the group of shofar blowers seems larger and is more likely to impress the enemy. In Shulamit Ran’s opera Between Two Worlds, the shofar blasts are played by the alternating shofarot and orchestral brass, an effective musical expression of the cooperation of two rabbis in an exorcism ritual. In all these compositions, the shofar is not accompanied, and thus coordination problems with modern instruments are avoided. Intonation problems occur in the first orchestral composition with a real shofar, Edward Elgar’s oratorio The Apostles, in which the primitive ram’s horn is embedded in a modern symphony orchestra.

In a number of compositions the traditional blasts are transformed, sometimes by means of electronic technology, thus expressing the unusual, violent or supernatural character of an event. In Judith Shatin’s Elijah’s Chariot, this is Elijah’s ascension to heaven and in Bob Gluck’s Jonah under the Sea, Jonah’s drowning in the sea and his captivity in the fish; the shofar notes in this composition are very similar to whale calls. Three other compositions continue a biblical tradition by associating the shofar with war and terror. In Alvin Curran’s Crystal Psalms, realistic shofar blasts sound like emergency cries as in Kristallnacht; a dense texture of shofar blasts is the “sound signature” of Judaism in Robert Normandeau’s Chorus: To the Victims of September 11th, 2001, where the shofar is being confronted with the church bell and the call of the muezzin as the sound signatures of Christianity and Islam respectively. Though the shofar sounds in Andy Haas’ Humanitarian War are easier to recognize, they are at the same time more abstract, expressing general aggression and fear.

Shofar blasts are often performed on other instruments. Nearly undistorted blasts are blown on brass instruments in Alexander Goehr’s Sonata about Jerusalem, Luciano Berio’s Shofar, and Jeff Hamburg’s Tekiah. More distorted, but with both their characteristic rising 4th or 5th and tone repetition, are the blasts in Festive Horns by Yehezkiel Braun and Ernest Bloch’s Psalm 114 and Schelomo. They appear in woodwind or string instruments in Judith Shatin’s Elijah’s Chariot, Aaron Copland’s Vitebsk and Babette Koblenz’s Shofar. Ofer Ben-Amots’s Psalm 81 is a special case, as the choir sings the word tikʿu (“blow”) on the characteristic upward 4th leap, thus referring to the shofar in two different ways.

Shofar blasts appear as onomatopoeias in two literary works. In Israel Zangwill’s poem “Our Own”: A Cry across the Atlantic as a subtle, repeated allusion to the shofar blast, and in Yehuda Haim Perahia’s poem A Little Light in the form of a general onomatopoeic term for brass fanfares.

Three poems simply refer to shofar blasts. The blasts in Geoffrey Hartman’s Elegy at the Bodensee are real blasts in a concert setting, those in Avrom Sutskever’s Resurrection are imaginary blasts in a poetic nightmare, and those in Nelly Sachs’ Someone Blew the Shofar are abstract blasts as structure-defining elements in the text; in all three poems, the shofar blasts are symbols of the will to live after the Shoah.

Some composers imitate the timbre of the shofar with other means. In Bob Gluck’s Jonah under the Sea, this is the whale call, and in Giulio Castagnoli’s Shofar, the highest register of the bassoon, whereas Babette Koblenz’s Shofar only suggests the shofar’s roughness of timbre and attack.

The system of shofar blasts from the Rosh Ha-Shanah service is used in some works as a structure-determining element. Stefan Heucke uses the complete system in his opera The Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz, in which every blast creates a moment of reflection in the midst of terror. Herman Berlinski’s cantata Shofar Service is based on a Reform prayer book, which reduced the 100 blasts to 10. In Avraham Loewenthal’s painting 100 Sounds of the Shofar the system is represented by colored triangles and interpreted in a kabbalistic way as a striving for wholeness and goodness.


2. The Present is indirectly directed by the Past


Adaptation of Other Works

In a number of works, the artist’s point of departure is another work of art. Some source works were adapted in the target works, where they provide the text to an illustration, the words to a play or a cantata, or the melody to a composition, whereas other source works only provided a moment of inspiration for the target works.

Fragments from 12th-century texts are used in the libretto for the music theater piece Sonata about Jerusalem by Alexander Goehr. Its protagonists are the oppressed Jews of 12th-century Baghdad, who are misled by a false prophet and believe that they will fly to Jerusalem; triumphant and later caricatural shofar blasts play an important part in this composition. The folk song Eliyahu Ha-Navi (“The Prophet Elijah”) provides a part of the musical material for Judith Shatin’s Elijah’s Chariot for shofar, string quartet and electronics. This song about Elijah as the protector of children determines the atmosphere in the intimate passages of the composition, whereas the shofar sounds in the grandiose event of Elijah’s ascent to heaven. The succesful novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (1880) by Lew Wallace is set in the 1st century CE and confronts three characters and their milieus: the Jew Ben-Hur, the Roman Messala and Jesus, the prophet of a new religion. In Miklós Rózsa’s music to William Wyler’s film of the same name (1959), Jesus’ birth is proclaimed by a shepherd, who blows the shofar twice, first for Bethlehem and then for the world. In 1900, Moris Rozenfeld wrote a poem about God’s creation of man. To control him, God and His Senate decide not to give wings to man, with only one exception: the creative poet. The English translation of Rozenfeld’s naive Yiddish poem, The Creation of Man (1902), was given a completely different turn by Ephraim Moses Lilien’s illustration, which pictures the new man in the company of Theodor Herzl and a shofar blower, represented as classical, nude heroes. Although the above-mentioned source works do not contain a shofar, the ram’s horn is prominently present in the target works, where it expresses messianic hope.

S. Anski’s play Between Two Worlds (The Dybbuk) (1919) was adapted by Shulamit Ran into an opera: Between Two Worlds (1998). Inspired by the same play, Aaron Copland composed the piano trio Vitebsk (1929), in which he used elements from the play: the Ḥasidic song Why, oh why did the soul descend and the shofar blasts of the exorcism ritual, played in a strongly stylized form by the violin, cello and piano.

Paul Celan’s poem The Shofar Place (1969), inspired by the archaeological find of a stone from the Temple Mount with an inscription for the shofar blower, became in turn the source of inspiration for Luciano Berio’s Shofar (1995), a composition for choir and orchestra, in which the hermetic character of the poem is further enhanced by the stammering singing of the choir before the divine mystery, evocated by the powerful shofar blasts of the brass.


Inspiration from Other Works

In Primo Levi’s memoirs If This Is a Man (1947), the inspiration from the source work is short and intense as a flash of lightning; when Levi recites verses from Dante’s Divina Commedia (14th century) for a fellow prisoner in the concentration camp, Dante’s words about human dignity hit him like a trumpet blast, like the voice of God. This trumpet could be connected both to God’s great shofar on Mount Sinai and the trumpets in the book Revelation from the New Testament. Claudio Monteverdi’s cantata Sonata sopra Sancta Maria from the Vespers (1610) with its alternating vocal and instrumental sections provided the musical structure for Alexander Goehr’s music theater piece Sonata about Jerusalem (1970), whereas the shofar and other Jewish elements were provided by the above-mentioned 12-century Jewish texts.

Two plays from different periods provided inspiration for Robert Normandeau’s electronic composition about the terror attack on the Twin Towers, Chorus: To the Victims of September 11th, 2001 (2002). Sophocles’ Antigone (441 BCE) reveals the consequences of religious-inspired violence, whereas Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s Nathan the Wise (1779) compares the three religions Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, propagating mutual respect. The shofar, which is not present in the source texts, serves as the “sound signature” of Judaism in Normandeau’s composition.

Gustav Schwab’s ballad Der Reiter und der Bodensee (“The Horseman and Lake Constance,” 1826) must have been the source of inspiration for Geoffrey Hartman’s poem Elegy at the Bodensee (1984). In both poems, the antagonist escapes death, which he realizes only afterwards; Schwab’s ballad is about a horseman who crosses the ice and snow-covered Lake Constance, believing that it is land, while the poetic subject of Hartman’s poem survived the Shoah and is terror-stricken during a concert in Germany with Jewish music and the shofar.


3. The Past is altered by the Present


Tradition and Modernization

To the shofar tradition, 20th-century modernization has been both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, shofar tradition has suffered from the weakening of many religious communities; on the other hand, it has received a new impulse from modern technology, which expands the technical and artistic possibilities of the ram’s horn as well as the dissemination of shofar-inspired works of art.

In Yitskhok Leybush Perets’ short story The Shofar, which is set in the Pale of Settlement around 1900, shofar tradition is threatened from the outside by anti-Semitism and from the inside by stale routine in Jewish religious practice. In Abel Herzberg’s autobiographical story The History of My Shofar, however, the shofar’s status increases: Herzberg’s ram’s horn evolves from a sentimental marker, a heirloom from his father, into an ethnic marker of the Jews in the concentration camp, and eventually into a religious marker of Jewish faith. Moris Rozenfeld’s poem Sephirah is an example of lachrymose history, depicting the Jews as the eternal victims, whose only musical instrument is the “dry, withered” shofar. A protest against resignation and fatalism is found in Israel Zangwill’s poem “Our Own”: A Cry across the Atlantic, which is not only a call to support the European Jews in the aftermath of World War I, but also a literary echo of the system of shofar blasts from the Rosh Ha-Shanah service.

In his comment on his composition Shofar der Zeit, Alvin Curran breaks taboos by ridiculing fossilized shofar traditions, while he manipulates and amplifies the sounds of the shofar in the composition itself. Much milder is the opposition against tradition in Sarah Lindsay’s poem Zucchini Shofar, in which the temporality of man is accepted and a shofar is made of a perishable zucchini. In Richard Chess’ poem “With a Blast of the Ram’s Horn” and Felix Nussbaum’s painting Entombment (Organ-Grinders), the shofar is an imaginary weapon against authority in the persons of an uninspiring teacher and established, older artists respectively.

Although the shofar had not changed since biblical times, three composers provided the instrument with digital technology around the turn of the 21st century. In Alvin Curran’s Shofar der Zeit, Bob Gluck’s Jonah under the Sea and Andy Haas’ Humanitarian War, the shofar itself remains unchanged, whereas its sound is manipulated by means of computer technology. Bob Gluck goes a step further in Shofaralong by attaching digital devices to the shofar and playing it by means of a glove with sensors. In a very different way, technology determines Yiẓḥak Oren’s fantasy story The Monument of the Resurrection, in which the coming of the Messiah, announced by a shofar like a siren, is conducted as a secret military operation.

The protagonists of Sholem Aleykhem’s short story Mr. Green Has a Job and Bruno Schulz’s The Night of the Great Season are confronted with modern business; the former adapts himself to the American way of life by earning a living as a freelance shofar blower, whereas the latter does not adapt and blows the shofar in an attempt to keep the pushing crowd of customers off him.


The Shoah

19 out of the 70 discussed works of art are in some way connected to the Shoah. Some works only allude to the Shoah, whereas other works report about Kristallnacht and life and death in concentration camps; a third category is about liberation after World War II, and a fourth category about commemoration of the Shoah. Some works originate from the 1930s and 1940s, whereas others were created much later, by the second post-war generation.

The immediate cause of Israel Zangwill’s poem “Our Own”: A Cry across the Atlantic (1920) was the plan of an influential Pole to exterminate the Jewish minority in Poland. Else Lasker-Schüler’s play Arthur Aronymus and His Ancestors is a reaction to the growing anti-Semitism on the eve of the Third Reich, though the play is set in 19th-century Germany. Kurt Weill’s oratorio The Eternal Road is also set during a pogrom, whereas Alvin Curran’s electro-acoustic composition Crystal Psalms commemorates Kristallnacht. In Zangwill’s poem, the system of shofar blasts from the Rosh Ha-Shanah service determines the structure of the poem, whereas the shofar in Weill’s oratorio announces the deliverance of the Jewish congregation. Thomas Mann’s novella The Tables of the Law (1943) about the theophany on Mount Sinai is part of a series of ten novellas by different authors as a protest against Hitler’s violation of the Ten Commandments.

Two documentary literary works, Yechiel Granatstein’s One Jew’s Power and Abel Herzberg’s The History of My Shofar, reveal how shofar tradition strengthens the self-respect of Jews in concentration camps. In Stefan Heucke’s opera The Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz, the shofar blasts create moments of reflection in the middle of death and destruction, and in Osvaldo Golijov’s instrumental composition Tekyah, shofar blasts turn the wood of Auschwitz into a virtual synagogue. Drawing strength from belief is the point of departure in four works; in Arnold Schoenberg’s cantata A Survivor from Warsaw, the shofar is the antagonist of the German military bugle; in the chapter Rosh haShanah in Skarżysko in the above-mentioned book by Yechiel Granatstein, the blowing of the shofar gives the prisoners new hope; in Abel Herzberg’s The History of My Shofar, the ram’s horn in the concentration camp is personified as a prophet and veteran fighter; and in Nelly Sachs’ poem Someone Blew the Shofar, it is the symbol of continuity in Jewish history.

The subject matter of the poems A Little Light by Yehuda Haim Perahia and Resurrection by Avrom Sutskever is the psychological depression of Jews after the liberation and their confrontation with the consequences of the Shoah. In both poems, shofar blasts express the Jews’ unspeakable sorrow and their longing for redemption.

The Shoah is commemorated in two compositions. The above-mentioned Tekyah by Osvaldo Golijov was written as a commission for a BBC film about Auschwitz. Luciano Berio’s Hör (Shofar) was a commission for the Europäisches Musikfest Stuttgart, in which fourteen composers each wrote a part of the Requiem of Reconciliation. Herman Wald’s Memorial to the Six Million is a monument with six enormous shofarot around a stylized flame with the commandment “You shall not murder.” The Memorial Synagogue in the chapter of the same name in Paul Goodman’s novel The Break-Up of Our Camp is a virtual one, whereas Manuel Herz’s synagogue Meor Hagola – Beth Knesset Magenza is real; this building in the form of a stylized shofar replaces the destroyed synagogue in the German city of Mainz.



With the same point of departure: a comment on the Six-Day War of 1967, Naomi Shemer and Yehuda Amichai arrive at contrary conclusions. In Shemer’s song Jerusalem of Gold, the triumphant shofar sounds in the conquered Old City of Jerusalem, which is said to belong to the Jewish people since biblical times. In Amichai’s cycle Jerusalem, 1967, however, the annexation of the Palestinian part of Jerusalem causes fear and doubt, and the only bright spot is poem 21 of the cycle, which represents the Temple Mount with the shofar as the dynamic chronotope of a ship with a horn. After the Lebanon War of 1982, Yehuda Amichai wrote another anti-war poem, The Real Hero, with a reversal of Abraham’s sacrifice. In this the innocent ram, whose horns are used to sound battle cries, is the real hero. The horrors of terrorism are the subject of Andy Haas’ music album Humanitarian War and Robert Normandeau’s electronic composition Chorus: To the Victims of September 11th, 2001, in which shofar sounds are heavily distorted. Whereas the shofar in Shemer’s song proclaims peace for one nation, this concept is problematized in Amichai’s Jerusalem, 1967, and the shofar in Normandeau’s composition proclaims a humanistic and international ideal of peace.


Religious Confrontations

In some works, the shofar plays a part in internal religious confrontations in Judaism, centering on transgression of the Law or secularism; in other works, there are external confrontations of the Jewish religion and other religions, such as Christianity, Islam, and nature religions. An example of the latter is created in a poem from Shaul Tshernikhovski’s cycle To the Sun, where the shofar blower worships the rising sun as the bringer of life.

Apart from confrontations of the Jewish religion and nature religions, nature and especially animals play an important part in many of the discussed works of art. The greatness of nature is revealed in the chanted verses from the Prophets in Henry Brant’s composition Prophets, announced by shofar blasts, whereas God’s great shofar is accompanied by an earthquake in Thomas Mann’s novella The Tables of the Law. In Yitskhok Leybush Perets’ short story The Shofar, the old shofar blower is inspired by his memories of the beautiful nature around the village of his youth, which contrasts with the modern urban environment; and in Tsippi Fleischer’s Symphony No. 5 “Israeli-Jewish Collage”, love of nature is the only thing which unifies the opposing groups in Israeli society, and their love of nature is confirmed by a shofar blast. The rising sun, accompanied by a shofar blast, is a symbol of Christian, messianic redemption in Edward Elgar’s oratorio The Apostles and a socialist symbol of a better future in Yoysef Tshaykov’s drawing Dawn; in the above-mentioned poem by Shaul Tshernikhovski, the sun is even a deity, worshipped by the shofar blower and all other creatures. The shofar blower in Ephraim Moses Lilien’s drawing The Creation of Man walks in a lush vegetation with poppies as symbols of resurrection, whereas a plant provides an alternative, vegetable shofar in Sarah Lindsay’s poem Zucchini Shofar. Animals figure prominently in a number of works; the ram is pictured in Eliyahu Sidi’s painting From Tractate Rosh Ha-Shanah and instead of Abraham, figures as The Real Hero in Yehuda Amichai’s poem of the same name. The shofar blower who longs for redemption is compared to a drinking deer in Nelly Sachs’ poem Someone Blew the Shofar, and even to an eagle and a lion in Yitskhok Leybush Perets’ short story The Shofar. The lion as protector of the shofar blower can be seen in Ben Shahn’s painting Third Allegory, whereas a werewolf attacks the shofar blower in H. Leyvik’s poem The Wolf: A Chronicle. To conclude, Bob Gluck reveals the similarities between shofar blasts and whale calls in his electronic composition Jonah under the Sea. In most of these works, man is not seen as opposed to nature, but as an integral part of nature and God’s creation.

Two works confront Judaism with Christianity in statu nascendi. In Miklós Rózsa’s music to William Wyler’s film Ben-Hur, a shepherd blows two blasts to proclaim Jesus’ birth, the first for the Jewish town of Bethlehem and the second for the whole world. In Edward Elgar’s oratorio The Apostles, the shofar proclaims the rising sun as the symbol of the Messiah Jesus. The subject of Else Lasker-Schüler’s play Arthur Aronymus and His Ancestors (1932) is the hostile attitude of the Christians in a 19th-century German village towards the Jewish minority; the shofar is blown by the half-Jewish night watchman, who is able to blow both “Jewish” and “Catholic.” Luciano Berio was one of the fourteen composers of the Requiem of Reconciliation, that was meant to commemorate the victims of the Shoah; contrary to the commission, he used a German poem by the Jewish poet Paul Celan, and his contribution was eventually added as a prelude to the Latin mass. The only work with Islam beside Judaism and Christianity is Robert Normandeau’s Chorus: To the Victims of September 11th, 2001, in which the three religions are represented by the muezzin, the shofar, and the church bell respectively.

The violation of codes of conduct is the subject of four works. Amir Gilboa uses the shofar as a phallic symbol in his poem Raḥav about sexual initiation. In Der Nister’s novel The Family Mashber, the banker’s family business goes bankrupt; in a nightmare, the banker is excommunicated from the Jewish community by his father in a ḥerem with shofar blasts. In Anski’s play Between Two Worlds (The Dybbuk), the shofar ritual concerns the exorcism of a dybbuk from the body of his beloved. Another kind of metamorphosis is found in H. Leyvik’s poem The Wolf: A Chronicle about a rabbi, who turns into a werewolf after a pogrom, and threatens the newly founded Jewish community; during the Yom Kippur service, he enters the synagogue, where his howling blends with the tekiʿah gedolah of the shofar; the congregation beats him to death and dying, he again turns into a rabbi.

The subject of three works is the antithesis between religiosity and secularity in a Jewish context. In an attempt to demonstrate the compatibility of socialism and religion among the Jewish minority in Ukraine, in his drawing Dawn, Yoysef Tshaykov pictures a man who is both a traditional Jew with peyes and a shofar and a modern, clean-shaven Jew. In Avrom Sutskever’s poem Resurrection, the persona blows the shofar to revive his friends, murdered in the Shoah. However, they prefer death to the horror of life, and even God has lost His power and implores the shofar blower to redeem Him. In Tsippi Fleischer’s Symphony No. 5 “Israeli-Jewish Collage, a tekiʿah gedolah on the shofar, comparable to the blast at the end of the Yom Kippur service, is the symbol of reconciliation between hostile groups in Israeli society.

Finally, in Kenneth Fearing’s poem Afternoon of a Pawnbroker, a secular pawnbroker is confronted with unusual customers bringing mythological objects, and one of them is a certain Mr. Gabriel with a shofar.


A Better World

In many works, the point of departure is the either Jewish or universal longing or striving for a better world; what such a world looks like and how it can be obtained, remains controversial. Paul Goodman’s parable The Messiah-Blower is a modern variant on traditional messianic fantasies, whereas Kenneth Fearing’s poem Afternoon of a Pawnbroker reveals the gap between the modern business world, personified by the pawnbroker, and the world of miracles, personified by Mr. Gabriel and his shofar. In his both tragic and ironic poem And it shall be when the days grow long…, Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik hints that the Messiah will not come. In Kurt Weill’s oratorio The Eternal Road and Yiẓḥak Oren’s short story The Monument of the Resurrection, however, the Messiah does come, announced by a shofar; in the former work, he delivers the Jews from pogromists, and in the latter, his coming was prepared in a secret operation. The Messiah does not come in Alexander Goehr’s music theater piece Sonata about Jerusalem, as the Jews of medieval Baghdad are misled by a false messiah. A particular case is Avrom Sutskever’s poem Resurrection, in which the poet himself acts as the Messiah and tries to revive his dead friends, who refuse to return to the foul world, destroyed by the war. The ram’s horn’s announcing of the Christian Messiah in Edward Elgar’s oratorio The Apostles is an indication of a gradual shift of the shofar from a Jewish to a more universal symbol.

The longing or striving for a better world according to Zionist ideals determines Ephraim Moses Lilien’s drawing The Creation of Man, in which Theodor Herzl is pictured as King David, preceded by a herald angel with a shofar. Naomi Shemer’s song Jerusalem of Gold is a Zionist reaction to the conquest of Jerusalem’s Old City in 1967; in contrast, Yehuda Amichai’s poem Jerusalem is a port city is a sceptical reaction to the same event.

Socialist ideas inspired Yitskhok Leybush Perets in his short story Bontshe Shvayg (1894) and Yoysef Tshaykov in his drawing Dawn (1919). The tragicomic short story, in which the timid protagonist is welcomed in heaven with shofar blasts, mocks the passive attitude of many Jews facing exploitation and oppression, whereas the drawing, created a generation later, pictures a revolutionary Jew with a shofar, who takes his fate in his own hands.

An element of environmentalism is present in Yehuda Amichai’s poem The Real Hero, which criticizes the slaughter of the ram in order to use its horns for battle cries. More conventional environmental ideas about a better, greener world can be found in Sarah Lindsay’s poem Zucchini Shofar, in which no animal is harmed because the shofar is made of a zucchini.

Respect as the characteristic of a better world plays an explicit role in Tsippi Fleischer’s Symphony No. 5 “Israeli-Jewish Collage” and Robert Normandeau’s Chorus: To the Victims of September 11th, 2001; whereas the former strives for the unity of the conflicting groups in Israeli society, the latter propagates respect between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Implicitly, respect is present in Jordi Savall’s composition Fanfare of Jericho, 1200 B.C.; although the conquest of Jericho is not an example of respect, Savall’s production Jerusalem, City of Two Peaces propagates the equality of all cultures in Jerusalem.


In none of the discussed works of art is the technical primitiveness of the ram’s horn considered a disadvantage, because unlike the modern trumpet or horn, the shofar is not judged according to normal musical standards. It is above all a tool of remembrance with inherent Jewish-religious connotations. In all discussed works of art with a shofar, however, there are tensions between religion and art, as well as between tradition and modernity. Some more traditionally-orientated works of art resemble a midrash, bringing hidden meanings of religious texts to the surface, whereas other, radically modern works resemble a secular polemic against religious traditions. Prohibitions on certain beliefs and actions, which are fundamental to every religion, do not apply to the arts, in which everything is allowed except breaking civil or common law and boring the audience. There are artists with unorthodox views on fundamental biblical stories like Abraham’s sacrifice or the conquest of Jericho, and artists who contest the halakhic laws concerning the shofar. Each discussed work of art has an independent character and is more than the mere reproduction or confirmation of a verse from the Bible or a prayer book.

Three qualities of the shofar seem to have been the main sources of inspiration for modern artists. First, the instrument’s profusion of religious, universal, and even almost humanistic connotations, which nevertheless concentrate on existential themes of life, death, and deliverance, which are many artists’ “own questions” as well. Second, the rough tone quality of the animal horn, which contrasts with the polished tone quality of modern, standardized musical instruments. Third, the simplicity of the four traditional shofar blasts and of the tripartite structure of the system of shofar blasts, which represents usable material to composers, writers and artists in a great diversity of styles.

Though all arts have contributed to the artistic turn of the shofar, there has been no synchronous development, since music was often well behind literature and art. On the one hand, this could be accounted for by the fact that many composers departed from a literary work; on the other hand, the performance of a composition was often complicated and expensive, or simply impossible in the dramatic Jewish history of the first half of the 20th century.

Despite the fact that A Tool of Remembrance is not intended as a historical analysis of the shofar in the arts, two historical tendencies should be mentioned here. First, half of the 70 discussed works were created in Europe, about one third in the United States—two of them by Israeli-born artists—whereas only ten works were created in the State of Israel. One reason might be that the large social groups of secular and Ultra-Orthodox Israelis have relatively little interest—for different reasons—in secular art inspired by the Bible or Jewish liturgy. Some Israeli artists became interested in this dialogue only after having left their country, as the composer Ofer Ben-Amots stated. *Chapter 4.48.

Second, in many cases, the reflection in art on historical events, especially the Shoah, comes relatively late, even only after two generations; this fact, together with the general growth of interest in religious art since the 1970s, has led to an unprecedented flowering of shofar-inspired art at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st centuries.


Samenvatting in het Nederlands

De sjofar is, evenals de menora en de davidster, een centraal symbool van het jodendom. In de Hebreeuwse Bijbel is hij het meestgenoemde instrument, dat de openbaring van de tien geboden aankondigt, oproept tot religieuze rituelen, doorklinkt in de vermaningen van profeten en op het slagveld het sein geeft tot de strijd. Een muziekinstrument is hij in de Bijbel maar zelden. In de gebedenboeken voor de joodse hoge feestdagen Rosj Ha-sjana en Jom Kippoer is de sjofar prominent aanwezig en Rosj Hasjana wordt zelfs Jom Teroea genoemd, “dag van het sjofarblazen”. In de dienst produceert de sjofar een woor­deloze voortzetting van gebeden en ook daar is hij geen muziekinstrument. Aan het eind van de 19e eeuw gingen schrijvers, componisten en kunstenaars de primi­tieve ramshoorn anders beoordelen en dankzij hen begon de sjofar aan een tweede jeugd, waarin hij zijn onvermoede artistieke kwaliteiten kon onthullen zonder zijn religieuze verleden te verge­ten.

A Tool of Remembrance is een onderzoek naar het gebruik en de betekenissen van de sjofar als traditioneel religieus symbool in de nieuwe, seculiere context van moderne muziek, literatuur en kunst, waar het instrument niet langer onderworpen is aan religieuze beperkingen en gericht is tot een algemeen, niet exclusief joods publiek van luisteraars, lezers of kijkers, die niet worden aangezet tot actie of opgewekt tot inkeer, maar uitgenodigd tot het ervaren van de persoonlijke interpretaties van joodse tradities door kunstenaars.

Een status questionis met betrekking tot het gebruik van de sjofar in moderne kunst bestaat in feite niet. De relevante literatuur over het instrument bestaat uit enkele artikelen en hoofdstukken in handboeken en één artikel over de sjofar in moderne muziek, en er bestaat nog geen wetenschappelijke monografie over de sjofar. Intensief zoeken in bibliotheken en musea en op internet leverde 300 kunstwer­ken op uit de periode van eind 19e tot begin 21e eeuw. Met als voornaamste criterium een verrassend of controversieel karakter werden daaruit 30 muziekstukken, 30 literaire werken en 10 kunstwerken geselecteerd, overeenkomstig de getalsverhoudingen tussen de gevonden werken in de drie kunsten. Het getal 70 (30+30+10) is bovendien dat van de “standing blasts” van de sjofar in de dienst van Rosj Hasjana en in de joodse traditie het symbool van volledigheid.

Het onderzoek heeft een synchronistisch karakter en be­handelt dan ook niet de historische ontwikkeling van de sjofar in moderne kunst, maar alleen een aantal werken. Voor een beter begrip van de dialoog tussen enerzijds traditionele sjofarteksten en -signalen en anderzijds moderne kunstwerken dienen concepten van de Russische filosoof Michaïl Bachtin, de Amerikaanse filosoof John Searle en de Brits-Amerikaanse schrijver Thomas Stearns Eliot.

Sjofarsignalen klinken in het grensgebied van gesproken taal en muziek, maar gaan in de Bijbel en de gebedenboeken vergezeld van taaluitingen die hun intentie verdui­delijken. Ze kunnen in de zin van Searles taalhandelingstheorie worden beschouwd als assertieve, directieve, commissieve, expressieve of declaratieve taalhandelingen. In de Bijbel zijn sjofarsignalen vaak directieve taalhandelingen, waarmee God zelf of een sjofarblazer in Zijn naam gezag uitoefent over de luisteraar; in de gebeden­boeken zijn ze vaak expressieve taalhandelingen waarmee de gemeente uiting geeft aan haar gevoelens jegens God.

In de Bijbel roept de sjofar op tot gehoorzaamheid en in de gebedenboeken tot gebed en overgave aan God; volgens de terminologie van Bachtin is dit sjofarblazen “gezaghebbend discours”. Een kunstenaar die zijn publiek meevoert in een gefantaseerde wereld rondom de sjofar heeft geen ge­zag, maar overtuigingskracht, en zijn uiting is “innerlijk overtuigend discours”. In het kunstwerk klinken twee stemmen: die van de traditionele religieuze tekst en die van de kunstenaar. De kunstenaar richt zich tot een adressaat, een Joods of niet-Joods, religieus of seculier publiek; daarnaast heeft hij wat Bachtin noemt een superadressaat, een hogere instantie waarvan hij veronderstelt dat die zijn kunstwerk volledig doorgrondt. Deze kan de God van het jodendom zijn, de God van het christendom, een voor-bijbelse godheid, het zionisme of het eigen geweten.

De sjofar wordt in de Bijbel geblazen op plaatsen en tijden bepaald door Gods wil, een ritueel, een noodsituatie of een militaire campagne, terwijl het sjofarblazen van de gebedenboeken gebonden is aan de hoge feestdagen in de synagoge. Bachtin noemt dergelijke hechte verbindingen van plaats en tijd “chronotopen” en de kunstwerken tonen daarvan tal van nieuwe voorbeelden. Bij het onderzoek naar de stijl van de kunstwerken worden nog drie concepten van Bachtin gebruikt: “hybridisering”, “stilering” en “parodistische stilering”; bij hybridise­ring blijven de traditionele en moderne elementen in het sjofarkunstwerk herkenbaar, terwijl bij stilering één stijl een andere aan zich onderwerpt en als ruw materiaal ge­bruikt.

In de dialoog met de traditionele religieuze teksten kan een kunstenaar drie uitgangs­punten kiezen. In het eerste wordt het heden bepaald door het verleden: de kunstenaar gaat uit van traditionele religieuze teksten over de sjofar of van sjofarsignalen. In het tweede wordt het heden eveneens bepaald door het verleden, maar indirect, via een ander kunstwerk. In het derde uitgangspunt wordt het verleden veranderd door het heden: een artistieke, psychologische, sociale of politieke “eigen kwestie” (Bachtin) van de kun­stenaar brengt hem tot een traditionele religieuze tekst, die een voorbeeld, illustratie, analogie of contrast oplevert; na het ontstaan van het kunstwerk is er aan de betreffende traditionele tekst iets toegevoegd, waardoor die nooit meer op precies dezelfde manier gelezen kan worden.

De werken waarin de kunstenaar het verleden als uitgangspunt neemt, blijken geïnspi­reerd te zijn door veel verschillende Bijbelpassages, niet altijd met de sjofar als onderwerp. De meest gebruikte zijn de theofanie op de berg Sinaï, de verovering van Jericho en de lofpsalmen met sjofar. Zelfs de halacha met betrekking tot de sjofar uit de Misjna blijkt een bruik­baar uitgangspunt. Uit de gebedenboeken voor Rosj Hasjana en Jom Kippoer kiezen kun­stenaars vooral de secties Malchoejjot, Zichronot en Sjofarot uit de dienst van Rosj Has­jana en de Neïla uit de dienst van Jom Kippoer. Sjofarsignalen worden in muziekstukken geciteerd, in literaire werken door middel van een onomatopee geïmiteerd, of getransformeerd ten gehore gebracht door een sjofar dan wel een ander instrument. Inspiratiebronnen zijn ook het ruige sjofartimbre zelf en het systeem van 100 sjofarsignalen in de dienst van Rosj Hasjana, waarvan de hele structuur wordt overgenomen of het principe van de driedeligheid.

Het tweede uitgangspunt, waarbij het heden indirect wordt bepaald door het verleden, leidt tot kunstwerken geïnspireerd door een moment uit een ander werk, of tot de bewerking van een compleet kunstwerk in een ander artistiek medium, zoals een illustratie bij een gedicht, een cantate op een gedicht, en een opera gebaseerd op een toneelstuk.

Bij het derde uitgangspunt, waarbij het verleden wordt veranderd door het heden, blijken kunstenaars zich bezig te houden met een verdediging van de sjofartraditie tegen de opdringende technische en zakelijke moderniteit of juist met de technische modernisering van de sjofar. De Sjoa is in de kunst een belangrijk onderwerp met als thema’s pogroms, heiliging door de sjofar, kracht vanuit het geloof en herdenking. Oorlogen tussen Israël en zijn buurlanden en het fenomeen terrorisme zijn het uitgangspunt van enkele kunstenaars. Andere belangrijke inspiratiebronnen zijn religieuze confrontaties tussen de joodse religie en een natuurreligie, tussen jodendom, christendom en islam, of binnen het jodendom tussen religiositeit en seculariteit. En ten slotte gaan veel kunstenaars uit van ideeën over een betere wereld, gebaseerd op een messiaanse, zionistische, socialistische, ecologische ideologie of op respect voor andersdenkenden.

In de behandelde kunstwerken blijken drie traditionele verbindingen verbroken te zijn. De eerste is die met de synagogale ruimte; van de bima in de besloten synagoge verhuist de sjofar naar openbare en seculiere podia in de concertzaal, het theater, het museum, de straat en het woonhuis. Door gebruik van boeken, geluidsdragers en digitale media vallen ruimtelijke beperkingen weg en terwijl de sjofarblazer in de synagoge zich richt naar Jeruzalem, richt een sjofarkunstenaar zich tot zijn publiek. De tweede is die met de liturgische tijd, in het bijzonder met Rosj Hasjana en Jom Kippoer; bovendien maakt de techniek het mogelijk sjofarsignalen op te nemen en ieder willekeurig moment op te roepen. De derde verbinding is die met de halacha en de rabbinale autoriteiten en hun interpretatie van de traditionele religieuze teksten; kunstenaars gebruiken sjofarsignalen in het algemeen niet om richting te geven aan het leven van een joodse gemeente, maar om de fantasie te prikkelen van een algemeen publiek van kunstliefhebbers.

Drie kwaliteiten van de sjofar lijken een bron van inspiratie te zijn voor moderne kunstenaars. Ten eerste de rijkdom aan religieuze connotaties van het instrument met tegelijkertijd een concentratie op de existentiële thema’s van leven, dood en bevrijding, die ook klassieke thema’s zijn in de kunst. Ten tweede de ruwe toonkwaliteit van de dierhoorn, die contrasteert met de gepolijste toon van moderne, gestandaardiseerde muziekinstrumenten. En ten derde de eenvoud van de vier traditionele signalen en het driedelige systeem van 100 signalen, die bruikbaar materiaal leveren voor kunstenaars in zeer uiteenlopende stijlrichtingen.