For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted a shofar. I’m not sure why. I can’t blow them and I’m really not into collecting Judaica or for that matter into collecting anything. But I’ve just always wanted one.
I think that it may be because nothing affects me in shul the way a shofar does. When I hear that mighty blast the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I get goose bumps. Each and every time. I feel a connection that is over 5700 years old. I can imagine myself in the desert amongst my tribe listening to this same powerful sound.
The only other thing that has come close to this feeling was listening to my sons practising their Torah portions. As their voices carried throughout our house I felt connected to every other Jewish mother whose child has been Bar or Bat Mitzvahed. I cannot underestimate anything that helps me to feel connected to our history.
My eldest son took the trumpet in school and proudly announced to me that he can blow a shofar. So a shofar would not just be something to look at. My son could actually blow it in shul. We would be serving the community. It is now almost incumbent upon me to get a shofar. I decided that when we went to Israel for our sons’ B’nei Mitzvah we would get our shofar.
We found it in Tsfat. It is a gorgeous Yemenite shofar. My son tried it out and the sound was beautiful as well. We made our purchase and I could not have been happier. As thrilled as I was to see my boys get called to the Torah for their first aliyahas I knew that I would feel equally as proud seeing my son standing on the bimah blowing our very own shofar.
After we were home a while my son began practising for the big day. Not very long after he began practising he came to me and said, “The shofar has a really bad smell.” The other kids all went to check it out and soon began making various noises of disgust. I was sure that they were exaggerating and I needed to smell for myself. Admittedly I have a weak stomach when it comes to odours. Really weak. As a matter of fact I’m feeling a little sick right now, just writing this. No one was exaggerating. The stench that was coming from my beautiful shofar was overwhelming. Someone Googled “Cleaning a new shofar”. Surprise, surprise stinky shofars are common and there is a multi-step process to destink your new shofar. I decided to wait it out and hope that everything would dry up and my problem would just evaporate. Once again, big surprise, this did not happen.
So, this week I tackled our shofar. First I filled it with peroxide. Problem not solved. Then I went out and bought some aquarium gravel, poured it in my shofar swished it around, emptied it out and tentatively took a sniff. Once my eyes stopped watering I refilled it with a mixture of gravel and peroxide, swished and then soaked. Same old stinky, stinky.
I could see a piece of something just inside the mouthpiece. I was certain if I could get that out I would get rid of the stink. First tweezers. The opening was a little too narrow and forced my tweezers to close without me being able to grasp the offending piece of sinew (?). Next I tried a twig to scrape it out. Whatever it is, it’s not scraping off.
My son decided that he would like to blow the shofar offending odour and all.
I sat in shul waiting for the moment that he would lift the shofar toward the sky give a good strong blow and thrill us equally with the sound of the shofar and the knowledge that our fast was over. The sound was… how can I put it? A sputter? The rabbi picked up his little shofar and gave the blast that we were waiting for. He then took my son’s shofar from his hand, ready to do our shofar justice and he…sputtered. My son felt better, less embarassed. I thought that perhaps our shofar was too damp inside, having not dried out properly. The rabbi thought that it might have been that piece that I was trying to remove. I had moved it into the perfect position to block the sound. I felt as though I had set my son up to fail.
Now I have a beautiful, stinky shofar that cannot blow a blast o’ my people.
The rabbi suggested getting a small enough drill bit to clean it out without enlarging the hole. Are there any other suggestions out there? I want my shofar back and I want it to not smell like something crawled inside of it and died.