By Linda Conner Lambeck, The Connecticut Post

FAIRFIELD — Using a drill bit deftly inserted into a freshly sawed goat's horn, Rabbi Shlame Landa works to create an opening that won't pierce through the side.

"This is the most important part. If the drill goes through the side. That's it, the shofar is done," said Landa, cupping the horn in a gloved hand.

Within minutes Landa has fashioned a shofar, perhaps the 350th to come from his hands. With a little sanding and shellacking, it will be ready for anyone with sufficient lung power to sound during the High Holidays, the holiest season on the Jewish calendar.

In the week leading up to Rosh Hashanah, which begins sundown Friday, Landa will have helped make dozens more at workshops with children and families at the Jewish Center for Community Services in Bridgeport.

"The point is to bring the story of the shofar to children. It's not only something they hear and see for a couple of minutes in shul, but something they can really learn about," said Landa, demonstrating the process in his Wynn Wood Drive home where he also offers Jewish education classes and study sessions for adults and children.

Sounded throughout the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the shofar can produce a soulful, stirring sound, Landa said.

It can also sound like a trumpet, heralding God as a king and the birth of creation. It reminds some of the biblical story in which Abraham, about to sacrifice his son, slaughters a ram instead. The curve of the shofar, added Landa, can symbolize being humble or asking forgiveness, a central theme of the holidays.

A full-time rabbi and second-generation shofar master, Landa, 26, learned to make the wind instrument from his father in his native St. Louis.

He orders ram or goat horns in bulk from a farm in Florida. Most times, the cartilage inside has already been boiled out. To be kosher, or fit to use, the shofar must come from a kosher animal and from one whose horns are not solid. It can't come from a cow or bull, which although kosher, bring to mind the sin of the golden calf, Landa said.

The longer the horn, generally, the easier it is to blow and the deeper the sound.

"The air automatically finds its sound," said Landa, his cheeks puffing.

With his saw, drills, sander and open coat hangars — used to find where the solid part starts inside the horn — Landa takes his students through the shofar-making process in less than an hour.

"I don't know what they did before there were coat hangers," Landa said, adding most youngsters are drawn to the experience. All go home with a functional shofar.

On Rosh Hashana, the shofar is usually sounded 100 times, in a series of long and short blasts, but is not used when Rosh Hashana falls on the sabbath, which happens this Saturday.

Once completed, the shofar will last for years. Landa did not make the one he uses. It was a birthday gift from his wife, Miriam.

Landa and his wife, who belong to Chabad-Lubavitch, a Jewish education organization, also run workshops for other holidays. At Passover, they run a matzo bakery. At Hanukkah, they press olive oil. At Shavout, which celebrates the 10 commandments, they take children through the process of writing a Torah with parchment and quills.

"By bringing religion to life, making it enjoyable, it becomes more meaningful and something they want to be a part of," said Landa.