From the Rav’s Desk-Using a Yemenite Kudu Shofar for the Mitzvah of blowing Shofar

Question: [Tuesday, 17th Elul, 5782]

I am looking to purchase a new shofar for my Shul to use this Rosh Hashanah and would like to know if I can purchase the Yemenite Kudu shofar which is most beautiful in both appearance and sound and I would really like to use it for our shuls Shofar blowing from now on. Is there any issue with using the Yemenite Shofar for the Mitzvah??



The Yemenite Kudu shofar should not be used for the mitzvah of blowing shofar on Rosh Hashanah, even by Yemenites, and while certainly we do not have the protests against those Yemenite communities who still do so, no other communities whether they be Sephardi or Ashkenazi should use it and they are rather to use a regular shofar that comes from a ram.

Explanation: Before we begin the halachic discussion surrounding the Yemenite kudu shofar, we must explain what this shofar is. Traditionally, many if not most communities in Yemen were accustomed to use the horn of the male kudu antelope which is native to the Saharah desert in Africa [the females do not have horns]. This is traditionally considered the Dishoin animal mentioned in scripture. Their horns are both beautiful, long, and naturally curved, and also gives out a wonderful and loud sound. The halachic question surrounding this horn is as follows: As is known, not all horns of animals are valid to be used for the mitzvah of blowing shofar. For example, horns that come from nonkosher animals are biblically invalid. Likewise, horns that do not contain cartilage but are rather one single bone are biblically invalid. Likewise, all horns that Scripture defines as a Keren in contrast to a Shofar are biblically invalid, and hence the horn of the cow is biblically invalid to be used. The kudu Shofar contains questions on all of these three invalidations. Some question whether the kudu antelope is a kosher animal as although it chews its cud and has split hooves, some Poskim require a Kosher animal to also have a tradition/Mesorah, and it is unclear as to whether the Kudu antelope contains such a Mesorah. It is also not clear that the horn contains cartilage with some claiming that it does and others claiming that it does not. Likewise, some question that perhaps this horn is actually defined as a Keren and not as a Shofar, and is similar to the horn of a cow. Due to all these issues, some Rabbanim, including Yemenite rabbis who lived in Yemen, have spoken out against this tradition of using the kudu horn for shofar, and stated that one does not fulfill his obligation with it. Rav Shlomo Machpud, for example, stated that even in Yemen it was only the ignoramouses who used the kudu Shofar while everyone else used the ram Shofar. Other rabbis, however, defend the age old tradition of Yemenite jewry, claiming that aside for the kudu being a kosher animal, its horn contains cartilage, and is not defined by Scripture as a Keren, and it is hence valid for the mitzvah shofar. Nonetheless, even according to these defenders of the tradition, they agree that it should not initially be used, as the Poskim rule that initially one should only use a ram’s horn for the blowing in order to remind God of Akeidas Yitzchak which involved sacrificing a ram in place of Isaac. Furthermore, this law especially applies to Yemenite Jewry, as Yemenite jury have especially accept upon themselves the rulings of the Rambam, and according to the Rambam, in fact the only kosher shofar is the shofar that comes from the ram, and all other horns are invalid even if they come from a kosher animal and contain cartilage and are called Shofar in Scripture. Now, while the accepted ruling in the Shulchan Aruch is unlike this opinion of the Rambam, Yemenite Jewry should certainly suspect for it initially. Accordingly, while in previous times that respectable ram horns were not commonly found in Yemen, the Yemenite tradition was to use the kudu horn, in today’s times that ram horns are readily available, Yemenite communities at large are no longer custom to blow the kudu horn for shofar, and rather use a ram’s horn, and those who still want to abide by the tradition simply blow the kudu horn after prayer.

Sources: See Even Sapir p. 11; Kinyan Torah 3:78; Hashofar Vehilchosav  5; Shofar Kehalacha; See regarding the invalidation of a non-Kosher animals horn: Admur 586:3; Rama 586:1; M”A 586:3; See regarding the need to have a Mesorah to be allowed to eat a Kosher animal: Rama Y.D. 82:3; Shach Y.D. 80:1; Chochmas Adam 31:1; Even Haezra Devarim 14:5; P”M 80 S.D. 1; Chazon Ish Y.D. 11:4-5; Koveitz Igrosav 1:99; 2:83; Kinyan Torah 3:78 invalidates the kudu horn due to it not being Kosher; However, see article of Harav Yitzchak Ratzabi that Davida the shofar manufacturer claims that the antelope they use for the Yemenite Shofar does have a Mesorah as its eaten by Chareidi Jews in South Africa; See regarding the invalidation of a horn without cartilage: Admur 586:3; Rama 586:1; Rav Yaakov Yosef z”l invalidates the Kudu horn due to it not containing cartilage; However, see article of Harav Yitzchak Ratzabi that he completely negates this from reality See regarding the invalidation of a Keren called horn: Admur ibid; Levush; M”A 586:2; P”M 586 A”A 2; Chayeh Adam 140:2; M”E 586:1; M”B 586:6; Kaf Hachaim 586:10; See regarding the initial requirement to use a rams horn: Admur 586:2; Michaber 586:1; Tur 586:1; Yearos Devash 2:5; See regarding the Rambams opinion to invalidate all horns other than a ram: Rambam Shofar 1:1; Tosafus Rosh Hashanah 26b; Siddur Rav Sadya Gaon

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