Word of the Day / Shofar שׁוֹפָר

Sho far, sho good. The word shofar can mean a physical mouthpiece, or one used to trumpet your own views.

For many Jews, the word “shofar” brings to mind one of the most prominent symbols of Rosh Hashanah, the ram’s horn that is blown in synagogue to prompt worshipers to repent.

Sho far, sho good. But while its role in Jewish ritual is probably most central to a shofar’s identity, there’s another side to the personality of this early wind instrument. In Hebrew, “shofar” is also used to mean “mouthpiece,” in the sense that it can be said to trumpet one’s views.

Israel Hayom, the free newspaper owned by conservative U.S. billionaire Sheldon Adelson, has frequently been referred to as “shofaro shel Netanyahu” – the mouthpiece of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Some bloggers refer to the newspaper as a “Bibiton,” a play on Netanyahu’s nickname (Bibi) and the Hebrew word for “newspaper” (“iton”). Sometimes it is specific people who are labeled (whether fairly or not) as the shofar of someone else, such as columnists whose views are in line with those of particular politicians.

I don’t think we need to work too hard to figure out the connection between the two meanings of this word. After all, both a traditional shofar and a politician’s mouthpiece tend to be full of hot air.

Yaron Kaminsky