Hurricane Irene is approaching! I live in Israel but happen to be visiting my family in Maryland and have been bombarded with information regarding how to prepare for the hurricane.

The news stations are reporting every single detail and the weather channel has never been more popular.

First, the weather forecasters are telling us what to expect: Very heavy rainfall, winds with gusts up to 100 mph, flooding, trees and wires down, transportation outages, power failures, and communications failures (gasp - possibly including wireless!).

Next, leaders from the President down to Mayors, and authority figures from police chiefs to directors of the electric company are encouraging people to stay safe by remaining home during the storm.

Finally, the "experts" are telling us what to prepare. The list includes: Set aside some drinking water, fill your bathtub for toilet flushing water, get some extra cash from the ATM, bring in or secure any loose objects, close all windows and doors, turn off propane tanks, set your refrigerator/freezer to coldest setting, have flashlights and batteries, have a radio with batteries, have extra batteries, fill your car’s gas tank, and charge your phone.

We are being told to stock up with at least three days supply of bottled water – one gallon per day per person. We are being told to have basic medical supplies for up to seven days. Many are even suggesting that people obtain copies of personal documents and to have them at home including passports, birth certificates, insurance policies, and deeds to the home.

So much trepidation, so much fear. All in preparation for something which is likely to occur but not a given. The storm could theoretically blow west out to the ocean and all the preparation will have been for naught.

But better safe than sorry. Makes sense.

I sat in synagogue today and as we heard the announcement regarding the month of Elul which is beginning in a few days it suddenly hit me.

I heeded all the warnings and instructions for preparation regarding a storm which will likely hit Baltimore but may not. Now what am I doing to prepare myself for the month of Elul and the High Holidays which are quickly arriving with no doubt at all?

What is approaching us on a spiritual level?

Our spiritual forecasters describe the month of Elul as a time when God is especially close to us and we have the opportunity to grow spiritually in ways we cannot during the rest of the year.

Our spiritual leaders have instructed us to use this time to reflect upon our lives and find areas which we need to correct.

Our spiritual experts tell us to prepare for Elul and the High Holidays with real plans: How will we improve our prayers? What new Torah learning projects will we accept upon ourselves? What steps will we take to improve our character traits and our relationships with others?

As people up and down the eastern seaboard prepare for Hurricane Irene by heeding the advice and instructions of forecasters, leaders, and experts we would be wise to apply this same degree of listening to the advice of our Sages who speak of the great significance and importance of Elul and the High Holidays in using this time for spiritual growth.

May we all God-willing escape the hurricane with no physical or bodily damage because we prepared properly, and may we emerge from Elul and the High Holidays on the greatest of spiritual heights because of our attentiveness to the our souls and our spiritual preparation.