It has been brought to my attention that there are unfortunately uneducated Jews who think that lighting a candle for Tzaddikim other than on their Yartzeit day is chas vechalila idolatrous practice.Here is the thing. Indeed, one commenter suggested this, and there might be merit to it, or there might not be. But my concerns, at least, are not about the practices, but rather about what happens when one combines practices with dubious beliefs. This is just as some meforshim explain the move towards kohanim offering sacrifices. Beforehand, on a private altar, the person bringing the sacrifice might have incorrect thoughts, and end up offering to the demons of the field, the se'irim. Have them all bring to a central place, and the kohen will have the appropriate intent.
The following is proof that it has always been the Jewish tradition to light candles for loved ones and Tzaddikim anywhere and anytime...
Lighting a candle in honor of a deceased tzaddik, making a party in honor of Devorah, praying at a kever -- independently, these might be perfectly fine practices. But if the person doing it believes that he or she is davening to the tzaddik; or that the tzaddik is not a mere meilitz yosher, but independently evaluates requests and fulfills them himself; or that the tzaddik takes the corporeal form of a bird and goes out on missions, then, these beliefs may well combine with the practices to transform the practice into an idolatrous one. The candle might very well be intended as an offering to the deceased, who benefits from it, and can bring benefits to the one who burns it. The meal in gratitude can be idolatrous, as it would be if the Table for Eliyahu meant the same thing.
I did not attack the customs themselves. This is not because I think that they are unassailable. Rather, if I did that, I could be readily dismissed as taking a 'rational' approach as opposed to a 'mystical' approach, such that it is a legitimate machlokes. Rather, I will grant the legitimacy of the practices, but point out what happens when you combine them with this meshugga beliefs. This is an answer, also, to the first anonymous commenter on the post, who accused me of arguing from ignorance of the well-established Sefardic customs. I was not attacking the customs, but rather the practices when combined with these particular beliefs.
That is not to say that the commenter who said that candles lit not during a yahrtzheit were avodah zarah was entirely off the mark. She may indeed be quite correct. Lighting a candle during a yahrtzheit is quite possibly derived from avodah zarah, though of course all sorts of explanations arose to justify the practice. But that was justified particularly for Yom Kippur and for the anniversary of the death. As far as I can tell with fairly limited research, lighting a candle during other times that the yahrtzheit is not universally practiced. And if not universally practiced, then there may well be some legitimacy in questioning whether it is avodah zarah, much like Catholics light candles to particular saints. I am not saying it is certainly wrong, or that there are not probably sources nowadays to back up the practice.
yahrtzeits, see this, to the right.
In terms of Dreaming Of Moshiach's "proof", as far as I can make out, she combines quotes from various sources to make her point. One citation from Rabbenu Bachyah about the Neshama benefiting from the light of the Menorah in the Beis HaMikdash (see here
, page 37), which is not a particular declaration that one should light candles for the deceased. The Ben Ish Chai about this. The Mishna Brura talking about lighting candles particularly for the duration of Yom Kippur. And finally, the only portion that directly addresses the question of lighting on a day other than the Yahrtzeit -- an unattributed statement that one can:
This is lifted from "Menasheh Yisrael" of Hidabroot. (In fact, other quotes, such as the Rabbenu Bachya quote also seem to be lifted from there as well.) Fine, but the post would have been much stronger were there a primary source, such as the Ben Ish Chai, or Mishnah Berurah, as was given for the other points -- especially if the claim is that it has always been the Jewish tradition to do this, anytime and anywhere!
You can light candles le iluy nishmot of the Tzadikim anytime and anywhere and ask HKB'H in the zchut of the Tzaddik, HKB'H will accept your prayers.אפשר להדליק נרות לעילוי נשמות הצדיקים בכל עת ובכל זמן, ולבקש מהקב`ה שבזכות הצדיק יקבל הקב`ה את התפילה.