At this time of the year, we continually see New Year cards and greetings with the words “Happy New Year and well over the Fast.” We are so used to seeing these words that we do not give them a second thought. But what in fact are the words “Well over the Fast” meant to convey.
Surely we do not want to say that we wish to be well over Yom Kippur? (i.e. we wish it were the day after Yom Kippur!) The Mishnah in Ta’anit (chap. 4 Mishnah 8) states, “ There were no happier days for Israel than 15th Ab and Yom Kippur”. Obviously then, we do not want such a happy day to be well behind us.
The suggestion that this greeting means that we should not get ill as a result of fasting on Yom Kippur is also untenable, since if there is any possibility of danger by a person’s fasting, then he is forbidden to fast. What then do the words “Well over the fast mean? We put forward the following two suggestions.
1. The word “fast” refers to the Fast of Gedaliah (which occurs the day after Rosh Hashanah), and not Yom Kippur. The Fast of Gedaliah is one of the four fasts connected with the fall of Jerusalem, and concerning these fasts the prophet Zechariah (chap. 8 verse 19) says, “The fast of the fourth month and the fast of the fifth and the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be to the House of Judah joy and gladness”. This means that in the Messianic days these fasts will become days of happiness. Therefore we look forward to the Messianic era when Tzom Gedaliah will become a day of joy and gladness and we will hence be well over the Fast of Gedaliah.
2. The expression should be “Well over the Past” instead of “Fast”. We begin the service for the first night of Rosh Hashanah with the Pizman entitled Achot Ketanah. Each verse ends with the words “May the (old) year and its misfortunes now cease altogether”. The last verse however ends with the words “May the New Year and its blessings now commence together”. We can now understand our New Year greeting to mean the following: “Happy New Year” – may blessings now commence with the New Year. “Well over the Past” – let us be well over the past year with all its misfortunes.
Today, do-it-yourself things are becoming fashionable. So why not a do-it-yourself Shofar? Actually it is quite simple – on paper at least.
First of all, as with D.I.Y. things, you require the materials. The most important is, of course, a horn …. Any horn? …. No, a cow’s horn is no good (remember the golden calf). You need a sheep’s horn. It’s unlikely that your Kosher butcher will have one – and you don’t want to be seen going into a Treife butcher (do you?) although they probably also won’t have one. Instead ask a Shochet nicely, or maybe go to an abattoir. Try and get a few spare horns – you are sure to mess up the first one.
Having got the horns (they will probably smell a bit – so put a peg on your nose), you will need to use the kitchen stove, (buy your mother a bouquet of flowers and ask her nicely whether you can use her stove “just for a few minutes”). Also ask her for a discarded saucepan – do not use a Kosher one.
If you mother has agreed, (she doesn’t know what she is in for), you are now ready to start.
As you will notice, the horn has a bone in it and this must first come out to make the horn hollow (the word Shofar comes from Shefoferet meaning tube). Take the horn, put it in your saucepan, fill with water and boil for a few hours. (Don’t do it just before dinner – you may lose your appetite. Most important, watch it carefully, someone may unknowingly serve it up as your soup for dinner!) Then take the horn, tap it gently on the floor and if you are lucky, the bone should now come out.
You then take the horn and heat it over a flame. Don’t hold it too near the flame, you will probably melt it and cause pungent odours to percolate all over the house. When the horn is hot, you should be able to straighten it out. You may need some strength for this – so practice your Mr. Universe exercises – in – out – in – out ……
You will notice that the other end of the horn is solid and needs to be drilled. If your father has not yet seen your activities in the kitchen, he may loan you his drill and you must then carefully drill the solid part until you reach the hollow portion. However, if your activities in the kitchen have already made you a persona non grata and you cannot get a drill, take a 6 inch nail (15 cms on the foreign metric system), hold the head in a schmatter, heat up the other end and keep pressing it on the solid portion. After doing this several hundred times you should reach the hollow portion.
Carefully shape the mouth-piece, how you do this will “make or break” your Shofar. Finally polish the Shofar.
Now try and blow your Shofar. Maybe you will be lucky – otherwise, hard luck, mate – try again.