Rabbi Zalman Bluming lifted the spiraled horn of the African kudu to his lips and blew.
The sound – like the deer bleat you make by blowing into a blade of grass, only louder – rang out in the Lerner Jewish Community Day School.
Two dozen little children sitting on the floor looked up, then clamored to give it a try on smaller ram’s horns.
Any kosher animal would do, said Bluming, of Chabad Durham-Chapel Hill. Ram, antelope. But not an elephant, he told the children. And not any animal that was living. The horn must come from an animal that has already died.
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The rabbi and his daughter Mushka, 11, led a “Shofar Factory” at the school Wednesday, teaching the tradition of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that begins Sunday at sundown.
It was a hands-on affair, with students under the adults’ watchful eyes helping to saw, sand and shellac about 50 horns.
And if none of them quite mastered the sound – it takes a lot more breath than most little lungs can muster – it didn’t matter.
“The uniqueness here is the visual and hands-on approach to our values,” Bluming said.
“Instead of just teaching about them – when the children polish, drill, and sand it on their own it has that much more of staying power and allows them to have a stake in their heritage,” he said.
The shofar plays a central role in the High Holidays services.
According to Jewish history, its sound accompanied God’s giving the Torah (the Bible) to the ancient Hebrews at Mount Sinai, Bluming said. Also, Jewish tradition holds the shofar will usher in the Messianic Era, a time of world peace.
On Wednesday, after the last students had left for lunch, the rabbi sat on a tiny chair and talked more about the signficance of the shofar for children.
“Childhood is not a preparatory step for adulthood,” he said. “It’s a rich, vital stage in its own.”
“By giving them a shofar, which is a small instrument, with just a little bit of training they can make a loud effective noise, a loud blast,” he continued.
“It’s the lesson that every single human being, every single child has the entire world in their hands. Literally one good deed, one good thought tips the scale toward goodness, toward kindness, toward mitzvah.”
Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown Sunday, Sept. 13, and extends until nightfall on Tuesday, Sept 15. Yom Kippur begins at sundown Sept. 22. Register for Chabad services at www.chabaddch.com or contact Chabad at 919-357-5904 or firstname.lastname@example.org