Teaching the Shofar: horn vs. antler

shofar, so not

shofar, so not

In my shofar classes (Kindergarten—3rd) I mentioned why shofars are made from horns, not antlers. My K-3 explanation is that horns are hollow and antlers are solid. Horns don’t really grow hollow: the bony inner material must be knocked out of the keratin sheath. (Keratin, by the way, is what our fingernails are made of, and if you really want to gross-out /interest the bigger kids, make them file their fingernails and smell them, and then file a horn and smell THAT.)  Antlers are true bone, solid and usually branched.  At the time, I wished I had had an example to show and tell and touch.

The dumb thing is that I did own an example of an antler, only I reckon I had been too fakakta to remember it when I planned the lesson.  I only remembered it when one kid asked about deer.  Deer grow antlers, not horns.

At home, I have a gorgeous deer skull tacked up on my shed, with branched, bony antlers that are, at this very moment, disappearing.  The squirrels eat them.  Squirrels, like all rodents, need to keep their constantly-growing teeth filed into manageable length, so they gnaw, gnaw, gnaw.  On anything, everything.  My deer antlers seem to be the file of choice for neighborhood Rodentia.

Well, the day after I taught my shofar classes, I rescued my skull from the shed.  That’s when I noticed that the squirrels had given me the perfect example of why we don’t make shofars out of antlers.
Look at that inner material, chewed halfway through center.
You can’t blow through that.
You can’t make any sound with that.  SOLID.

antler innards

antler innards

I’m looking forward to bringing the skull to class to see what the kids think.  (After I relocate the huge funnel spider currently living in the brain cavity…)

No Cow Horns:
Oh, one other observation about teaching shofar construction to younger kids. I mentioned that we can use the horn of any kosher animal except cows, and said that this was because of “something that happened in the Torah. . . in the wilderness. . . when Moses was up on Mount Sinai and the Israelites were tired of waiting on him to come back.”
Silence.  Blank stares.  No one had heard of the Golden Calf.

Later, I realized that not even The Prince of Egypt—source of all Preschool Passover Pedagogy—shows that bit, does it?  Dreamworks leaves out the Golden Calf, right?  (Holler if I’m mistaken.)  Thus, lots of kids don’t know from this story.
So, next year, I’ll bring an illustrated Torah or illustrated parsha book to show a picture when I give the nutshell version.

There is never, ever enough time in art class.


2 responses to “Teaching the Shofar: horn vs. antler

  1. I wish I could take your class, Joanna! Shana Tovah to you and yours!