It was in All of a Kind Family that I first heard the story of the good and wicked Sabbath Angels, though I have heard the story since then, so it is a verified part of the culture.
On Friday evenings, every Jewish home is visited by a pair of angels: one good and one wicked. If the candles are lit and everyone gathered and celebrating the Sabbath, the good angel is happy and prays "May it always be thus." Then the wicked angel has to swallow its snarls and say "Amen."
But if Sabbath is not being observed, then the wicked angel gets to gloat and curse "May it always be thus." And the poor weeping good angel must also say "Amen."
Well, usually in my home, the wicked angel has been winning. There were times, when the kids were in Jewish preschool, and brought home little baked challahs on Friday, and before I started working an hour's drive south (sans traffic) when we would do the entire Sabbath, more or less as done in my childhood. OK, without my Dad's no-bluejeans rule, and I admit, always skipping Grace After Meals (because it is so long.)
But one week ago Thursday, I was shopping in Trader Joe's, and saw, bought and brought home a bag of challah rolls. Friday, after dark, I came home, and the candles were lit, the challah under a napkin, the kosher grape juice & glasses at the ready.
We sang Shalom Aleichem. I sang Aishes Chayal. I blessed the children. We all sang the kiddush, with my dad's version of the tune. We washed our hands, said the blessing. We said the blessing over the challah. As I lifted the cloth napkin off of the challah, a paper napkin that had been on top of the cloth one for who knows what reason floated off--right into the path of the lit Shabbos candles.
"Jesus!" exclaimed the older kid. The napkin floated past the flame.
I scolded her: "You wrecked it! Now we've got to start all over again."
The children's Catholic dad was sitting out all the ceremony, at his computer. We ran to tell him what happened. His take: "Invoking the True Lord's name obviously saved our house from burning down."
Oh well. I bought another bag of challah rolls at Trader Joe's last night. Let's see what happens tonight.