Before I listen to the new podcast “On the Other Hand,” should I say the blessing for studying Torah? Does listening to a podcast count as study? Is it OK to say the blessing if I’m listening to commentary without reading or hearing the Torah portion?
Listening to On the Other Hand: Ten Minutes of Torah definitely counts as Torah study. The podcast is an opportunity to learn a bit of Torah and start to think about the weekly Torah while also incorporating some modern-day thinking into the traditional message.
Think of it like a Torah study at a synagogue or with your community, but instead of having the conversation right there with the other people sitting around the table, this is a more global conversation. You can either respond online via Twitter or Facebook, or you can start thinking about the ideas introduced in the podcast as a launching point for conversations with friends, family, and fellow congregants.
The blessing before Torah study, la'asok b'divrei torah, asks us to engage or dig in deeply (as conveyed by the verb la’asok) to the study of Torah. As long as you feel that you are doing that in listening to the podcast, you should certainly feel free to say the blessing in advance of listening. Thanks for asking, and I hope On the Other Hand: Ten Minutes of Torah keeps you engaged enough to listen and to say the blessing for many weeks to come.