At the time of this writing, Hurricane Irma is expected to bring a 15-foot storm surge, as much as 20 inches of rain and winds up to 130 mph to Florida. According to CNN, the dramatic mass exodus from South Florida could become one of the largest evacuations in US history.
First of all, we pray for the safety of every human being in Irma's path. May our prayers and penitence invoke Divine mercy and may Irma take a sharp turn out to sea.
In any event, the northbound roads out of South Florida are bumper to bumper. What does it mean when well over six million people must evacuate their homes? In spiritual terms, this is exile. And why in Elul?
Hashem does everything for the best, whether or not we understand how and why. The Gemara says (Tractate Sanhedrin, 37b) that exile atones for all a person's sins. In light of this principle, where a nation doesn't have the will or the sense to repent, rather than being punished more severely, they are exiled. This is exactly what happened to the Jewish People during the destruction and subsequent exile of our First and Second Holy Temples.
I'm sure that the exile of South Florida will be short and temporary, enabling everyone to return to their homes soon. Let's strive, in prayer and in penitence, that our exile too will be short and temporary, and that Hashem will return our exiled people home to the Land of Israel speedily, amen! Blessings for a good new week with good tidings.