Monday, January 24, 2022

Can a Torah podcast be funny, dramatic, insightful, and a little bit cheesy—all at the same time?

That was the idea when Englewood resident JJ Weinstein, along with his brother Danny Weinstein, began scripting and recording their new podcast “Pshat or Not.” Each episode begins with a dramatic flair, putting the listener into the shoes of the protagonists of the Torah narrative about to be discussed. That is followed by the hosts taking a fresh look at various enigmatic, fascinating pesukim from the parsha, offering fresh perspectives and ideas on the text. Three of the first four episodes also feature a “fauxmercial,” or fake commercial, which is meant for comic relief, and ties into the content being discussed.

The Weinstein brothers were raised in Boston, and attended Maimonides School in Brookline, Massachusetts, for yeshiva day school. JJ, his wife, Rachel (the voice of the fake commercials), and their three children live in Englewood, while Danny and his family are in Dallas. The two brothers decided that they wanted to share the interesting ideas they were coming up with on their weekly, informal phone calls with one another about the parsha. But they wanted to use the format of popular podcasts as a way to engage listeners.

“I listen to a lot of podcasts in my spare time—about business, science, news, you name it—and I realized that Torah shiurim online are not designed to engage and captivate the audience as effectively as produced podcasts,” said JJ. “‘Pshat or Not’ has music; it is designed to keep you laughing, but it is also meant to facilitate critical thinking about episodes in the Torah that many of us have glossed over in the past. We have received great feedback on the first four episodes from each of our shul communities, and we intend to keep the podcast going as long as we have interesting insights to share.”

“Pshat or Not” can be found on all major podcast platforms, and the Weinstein brothers eagerly welcome feedback on their Facebook page, or by emailing [email protected].

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