Before satellites and 24-hour cable news, if a hurricane was headed your way, you might know it mere hours in advance, and the time you had to prepare was commensurate with how much information you knew.
Perhaps the Native Americans had a system of understanding the atmospheric changes based on their intimacy with the land.
In the early 1870s when forecasters began predicting hurricanes out of Cuba, the work was based on cloud formations just days in advance. Later, the use of radio and airplanes greatly advanced the predictability of a hurricane. Today, there are satellites in the sky, and the accuracy of where a hurricane will hit is rivaled only by how many weeks in advance people are given to stress out and evacuate.
With the all-knowing power of satellites, people are afforded the luxury of preparing appropriately and making plans for evacuation. Knowing what the future holds is surreal, and it is empowering.
The Ba’al Shem Tov, whose birthday just happened to occur this Shabbat along with Irma, teaches that everything that happens to us is by divine design or happens by Hashgacha Protit — individual Divine Providence.
This means that when we find ourselves somewhere, it is for a purpose. Even a leaf doesn’t fall off a tree without intention, if only perhaps to shade a lethargic inchworm (as the well-known tale goes), so certainly our goings and comings are by divine intervention.
G-d has a master plan and is overseeing it all, with slightly more accuracy than the satellite, but technology is surely catching up.
Everyone who ended up in Atlanta during Hurricane Irma was destined to be here, and those who were not destined to come never did — no matter their best intentions or how hard they might have tried.
How many people were on their way, with even a place to stay, but did not make it?
And how many had plans to go farther north, but somehow Atlanta became their destination to hunker down and batten down the hatches?
Most will never know why they had to spend Shabbat Parshat Hurricane Irma in Atlanta, or why their baby was born at Northside Hospital (Atlanta) instead of Jackson Health Hospital (Miami), or why their baby boy born last week was brissed at Chabad Intown Atlanta instead of their own living room in Aventura, Fla.
Such is life. His mysterious ways are not always known or shown to us. But sometimes we are given a wink, letting us know that He is indeed orchestrating it all.
This past Shabbat, along with our Irma evacuee guests, we hosted the bar mitzvah of one of our Hebrew school students. When this family came to our Hebrew school, it was a curiosity because they lived quite far away. The mother was intent on her children getting their education specifically at Chabad because she had fond memories of a Mr. Fellig, a Chabadnik who was instrumental in her own Jewish education many years ago when she lived in South Florida.
At the time this family signed up, we were thrilled with the Divine Providence of them ending up in our Hebrew school because Mr. Fellig was none other than the grandfather of my brother-in-law.
It all seemed so beshert: She had found her family’s Jewish home.
And, indeed, the past four years her son has grown into a fine young man and has been successful at the Hebrew school. And then came time for his bar mitzvah, Hurricane Irma and all the extra guests who were never invited to but surely were welcome at his celebration.
As the rabbi welcomed the crowd, he made special mention of the fact that the winds of Irma had blown in our sister and brother-in-law and their kids — the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Mr. Fellig — to come celebrate this special simcha.