Why is it that sometimes on a Friday afternoon, as candle-lighting time approaches, instead of saying to my children, “Come, dear children, welcome the Shabbat Queen with Mommy,” my last words before striking the match might be, “Why is this pile of clothes still unfolded? I told you to do it hours ago!” or “Get out of the shower already, it’s time to light the candles!” At times like these, I feel flustered, frustrated and fuming. I justify my feelings by telling myself that it’s because I’ve had a long, hectic week.

But on otherWhat makes the difference between these two scenarios? Fridays, there are the same preparations to do before Shabbat, and my week has been no less hectic. Yet as I light the candles, a special sensation of calm infuses me. I am inspired by a sense of tranquil joy. What makes the difference between these two scenarios? The answer lies in my hazardous presumption: the “black hole syndrome.”

A black hole is a gigantic void in the middle of outer space that absorbs all light that comes its way. According to modern quantum mechanics, if you fall into a black hole, you can count your lucky stars if you ever manage to escape.

Now, if you think that black holes are a rare occurrence in real life, you may be in for a nasty surprise because those colossal craters are lurking all over the place. These may not be the same intergalactic phenomena that astrophysicists are researching, but for the average person, they are usually far more significant. It may begin with a difficult financial situation, a lost job, an unhappy marriage or just frazzled pre-Shabbat preparations on a regular Friday afternoon. We may be overcome by jealousy, rage, despair or other destructive emotions that lurk beyond the next horizon. Like a black hole, they open their gaping mouths and threaten to engulf us at every turn.

Naval and David

Abigail was a sensible woman and beautiful, too.1 The sages teach us that Abigail was one of the seven biblical prophetesses2 and one of the four most beautiful women of all time.3 By contrast, Abigail’s husband, Naval, was a tightfisted, drunken tyrant. Abigail lived on the verge of a gigantic black hole. It would have been the most natural thing for her to be sucked into it together with Naval. Had it not been for her wisdom, courage and dignity, she would have.

David, who had already been anointed as king, was marching through the Paran Desert with 4004 warriors when a group of Naval’s shepherds joined up with them. David’s warriors took responsibility for the shepherds and guarded them as they approached Carmel. There, Naval’s shepherds told David that Naval was celebrating the sheep-shearing festival.

David had kindly guarded Naval’s shepherds from attack, and since Naval was a man of considerable means, he thought that Naval would agreeably share some of his spoils with David’s hungry men. David sent 10 youngsters to Naval to ask him to send a share of food to David’s entourage:

So shall you live next year, and may peace be upon you, and peace upon your household, and peace upon all that is yours. And now, I have heard that they are shearing for you.

Now, your shepherds were with us. We did not disgrace them, neither was anything missing to them all the time they were in Carmel. Ask your youths and they will tell you, and may the youths find favor in your eyes, for we have come on a festive day. Give now, what your hand will find, for your servants and for your son, David.5

ItIt seemed like a reasonable request seemed like a reasonable request, and David, as we all know, had a way with words. What he did not realize was that Naval was rarely, if ever, agreeable to anybody:

Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse?” ranted Naval. “Nowadays, there are many slaves, who break away, each one from his master. Now, shall I take my bread and my water, and my meal which I have cooked for my shearers, and shall I give them to people of whom I know not whence they are?

Considering that David had already been anointed as the next king of Israel, Naval’s obnoxious reaction was (to say the least) politically incorrect. In fact, it was blatantly offensive.

When David heard of Naval’s reaction, he presumed that this was a rebellion against the king of Israel, a crime punishable by death.6 That same day, David assembled the court of the Sanhedrin, where Naval was duly convicted.7 Together with 400 armed soldiers, David prepared to set the matter straight that very night:

So shall G‑d do to David’s enemies and so shall He continue,” David vowed to himself, “if I leave remains of all that he [Naval] has, by the morning light; even one dog.8

The black hole had appeared.

Abigail, the Black Halo

An interesting fact about black holes is that sometimes, lone particles remain at the edge of the hole and resist the formidable pull of darkness. When this happens, the black hole radiates a luminous glow. Cosmologists call it the event horizon. We might call it a black halo.

Abigail was one of those black halo particles who stood on the verge of the abyss and refused to be sucked in. David’s plans for Naval did not take her into consideration. When Abigail heard from one of David’s young men that Naval had refused to send him food for his troops, she stepped promptly into action:

And Avigayil hastened and she took two hundred loaves, and two earthenware jugs of wine, and five prepared sheep, and five seah [measures] of flour from roasted ears of grain, and one hundred clusters of raisins, and two hundred cakes of figs; and she placed them on the donkeys. And she said to her youths, ‘Go on ahead of me. Behold, I am coming after you.’9

David and his men, armed with their swords, were already heading down into the valley from one hill when Abigail descended the opposite hill with her generous peace offering. There, David met Abigail for the first time. Armed with irresistible charm, the logic of a Torah scholar and the indisputable insight of a prophetess, Abigail convinced David that killing Naval would be a sin on David’s behalf since his sovereignty was not yet public knowledge:

Your royal highness, consider this scenario,” said Abigail to David. “A poor man comes to the home of a rich man and asks him for a loaf of bread. The rich man refuses, and the poor man is about to kill him. What would you tell them if they came to be judged by you? You consider the matter and cannot reach a conclusion. Then they say, did he not do the same to Naval? Don’t say that because you are king they will not rebuke you, rebuke yourself now!10

AbigailDavid turned his back on the black hole continued to intimate with her prophetic words that Naval would die shortly, without David’s intervention, and that David would then marry her.

David turned his back on the black hole and was attracted to the forces of the black halo. He recognized that in Abigail, he had met a soulmate. Although David now had a personal interest in carrying out the death penalty on Naval, Abigail presented him with the power to curb his reaction and delay his own gratification until their marriage was permitted according to Torah standards:

“Blessed is G‑d, G‑d of Israel, Who has sent you towards me on this day,” David told Abigail, recognizing that Divine providence was at work here.11 “Blessed is your advice, and blessed be you, who have restrained me this day from shedding blood, and from avenging myself with my own hand.”

David returned to his troops and Abigail returned home, where Naval was in the midst of the traditional sheep-shearing shindig. He was already in a drunken stupor. Abigail wisely refrained from reporting all that had transpired. She ignored him until morning when he was sober. She had yet to overcome the black hole.

The Black Hole Evaporates

When Abigail told Naval that she had presented David with such a generous gift, his stingy heart betrayed him, and he almost died on the spot. He lay paralyzed for 10 days until G‑d appropriated the final blow. As Abigail had prophesied to David, Naval died without human intervention. The black hole had swallowed itself out of existence.

Within a short time, Abigail was married to the man referred to as “the gentle resolute one,”12 who authored the book of Psalms.13 Instead of being consumed by the intimidating void of a black hole, Abigail became a central figure in the life of David, the King of Israel, predecessor of the ultimate redeemer, who will radiate G‑d’s light to all ends of the universe.

The black holes that G‑d sends our way are not always easy to avoid. Although the minor trials and tribulations we encounter in our everyday lives may be different from Abigail’s marriage to a vulgar abuser, we can always look to her as our role model for success in transcending negative emotions.

Don’t Gift the Forces of Evil

The Mishnah teaches us that the powers of destruction were created on Friday afternoon. On Fridays, they set out in full force to undermine family harmony. “They find themselves a birthday present, as it were, in the form of anger and impatience, stress and confusion, arguments and strife. And although a person is always obligated to keep his distance from anger, this is even more so on Friday, when his evil inclination is more intense and strives to make him stumble.”14

The difference between a frustrated candle-lighting moment and a tranquil one depends on the lesson I have learned from Abigail. Whether or not I avoid falling into the abyss is determined by waking up on Friday morning armed with self-control, dignity and most of all, faith in G‑d.

As I strike the match to welcome the Shabbat, I ask myself if I have evaded the shadowy lure of the dark void. Perched precariously on the event horizon between the treacherous black hole of Friday afternoon and the glowing candles that welcome in the holiness of Shabbat, I wonder, do I, like Abigail, radiate a luminous halo that has the power to attract only good?