Personally, it wasn't until after I spent a year in seminary, that I actually enjoyed staying inside during the Rabbi's speech. Growing up, "key lekach tov" was my cue to skedaddle lest I be too late and have to face one of those women who take it upon themselves to stand in front of the sanctuarary doors, not letting people in or out, until after the Rabbi had finished. Now, I pick the seat with the best acoustics.
There was a bar mitzvah in shul yesterday: twin boys. One wore a simple black kippah, the other a black hat. I thought to myself how difficult it must be to be born an identical twin and grow up with the pressure to somehow prove my novelty, determine my own identity.They seemed to be riding that wave. The Rabbi began his speech with a witty joke: "I have seen boys wear a kippah sruggah to make a statement and I've seen boys wear black hats to make a statement, but never have I seen one wear a black hat to differentiantiate between twins." I smiled.
He spoke about how we don't eat chicken or drink grape juice over the nine days even though the Torah only mentions the prohibition of wine and meat on Tisha B'av. We- the Jewish people- extended it not just to Tisha B'av but to the day before Tisha B'av, which later grew to the week of Tisha B'av, and finally to the 9 days at which point we included all fowl and grape product to the ban. I never really understood why we make so many safegaurds, why every halacha becomes ever expansive and exponentially ardous, yet the Rabbi put it simply: "It's because we have a mosque instead of a Beis Hamikdash."
It's unhealthy, and in my opinion self-destructive, for an individual to create extra stringencies for themselves (and even worse to impose those stringencies on others), yet I believe that small reminders like being extra careful what you watch or how you speak during these last few days, can truly make the difference. It's not about suffering, it's about mindfulness and using attention to detail for growth.
The Rabbi concluded by mediating on a final thought, "I wonder what kind of headgear Mashiach will be wearing."
I don't know if it will be like the 13 year old kid in a kippah srugah, or a twin in a black hat, but I'd like to think that he can come wearing a bike helmet if he wanted to.