[This week's Haveil Havalim is here; enjoy!]
Yes, of course I recycle plastic, cardboard, etc; I even compost; this is about recycling class material.
In my Modest Proposal for an Eco-Rabbinate post a few years back, I wrote, "Rabbis need to recycle more. I propose that rabbis should be permitted - nay, encouraged! - to recycle speeches and divrei torah after allowing them a two-year composting period."
That post was written tongue-in-cheek, but the issue of rabbinic recycling of material is actually one I think about quite a bit. I've taught enough shiurim and given enough derashos over the years - 363 on torontotorah.com's on-line audio archive from the past two years, and a lot more was never recorded - that I certainly could make use of old material for a good, long time to come.
But I don't like to do it; I don't like to re-use an old shiur, or derashah. I do it on occasions when starting fresh isn't an option – 2 out of my 5 Shavuos night shiurim this year will be re-treads – or when people request a re-run, but even then it doesn't sit well with me.
* I don't like it because it feels lazy, and I don't like seeing myself as lazy.
* I don't like it because then I miss the chance to learn something new. Giving shiurim should be an expanding experience for the maggid shiur, too.
* I don't like it because I'm apt to pull out the shiur without really reviewing it, and therefore I won't deliver it well.
* I don't like it because I'm worried someone will know that I've given it before, and think less of me for it.
* I don't like it because going to the old-shiur tank for that shiur now means I can't do it again soon, and maybe I'll have a greater need for it down the line.
* I don't like it because the issues and questions that are on my mind today aren't the same as the ones that were on my mind two, five, ten and fifteen years ago. This is especially true for derashos.
But mostly, I don't like it because I have a potent insecurity, a confident voice inside my head that says, day after day, that my learning isn't solid enough yet. No matter how well I prepare a topic, I always feel I don't quite have it. Probably comes from being a middle child… As a result, I always look back at old derashos and shiurim and feel like they weren't good enough, like they were probably missing something, like I must have misunderstood or misapplied a source. So it's rare for me to back to the well; I much prefer to start from scratch with something new.
Makes life harder, of course.
C'est la vie.