Ha'aretz has a long report on historian of hasidut David Assaf's new book dealing with scandals in hasidic history. In the book, Assaf cites new documentation that proves Moshe, the son of the Alter Rebbe (Baal HaTanya, the founder of Chabad) converted to Christianity. This documentation also proves the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe, Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, was either a liar of epic proportion, delusional or just plain foolish:
The biggest scoop in the book has to do with the conversion to Christianity of Moshe, the youngest son of the founder of Chabad, Shneor Zalman of Ladi. The affair was known and dealt with in a heated debate among the Maskilim (followers of the Enlightenment) and after them the academic researchers, who tried to blur and even deny the story.
Assaf's discovery should put an end to the debate. According to him, in recent years Professor Shaul Stampfer of the Hebrew University found two files of documents relating to the affair in the National Archive of Belarus. Among other things, the files contained a letter from Moshe to the priest in his town, Oula, requesting conversion, the baptism certificate that was prepared for him and letters from his two brothers to the head of the Russian Orthodox Churchin in which they state that their brother is mentally ill and ask, in the light of this, to revoke the conversion to Christianity as a step that was taken when he was of unsound mind and that exploited his illness (a description with which Assaf agrees). [He later notes the fanciful story concocted* by the 6th Lubavitcher Rebbe to cover up this episode.]
The book also deals with the apparent suicide of the Chozeh of Lublin, the apostasy of the Sadigora rebbe's brother, who was a rebbe himself and a son of the Ruzhiner Rebbe, and the violent persecution of Breslov hasidim by other hasidic groups that by far outstripped what the mitnagdim did to hasidim.
Assaf also notes this amazing fact:
Assaf cites the late researcher Dov Sadan, who visited the leftist [rabidly anti-religious] Shomer Hatzair Kibbutz Merhavia, identified many descendants of admors there and wondered about the meaning of this. He offers a varied explanation: "First of all, the admor's home is the least supervised element in a Hasidic court. The court supervises everyone's life, but the admor's children are less supervised. They were also given an education different from that of the other children of the court, and at least in Ukraine this was a more open education. A third point is that unlike other people of the court, they know it from 'inside,' not only with the aura of sanctity but also the stitching - the power struggles, the gossip - and what is most important - The admors' families are 'noble families,' often with many material assets that engender power struggles, and with struggles about who will be the heir, struggles that we have encountered just recently in the Satmar Hasidut.
"However, from a certain stage in Eastern European Hasidism a tradition emerged whereby even those who do not succeed their father in his court establish a court of their own in another town. This created tremendous pressure on the sons, even those who were not suited to the role of admor and had not necessarily been trained for this."
On the subject of the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson:
Assaf attributes the difficulty of selecting an admor "first of all to the mystic trap that the rebbe himself stuck them in, when he spoke about the 'seventh nasi' [the term used to denote the admors of Chabad, a Hebrew word that can mean president, chairman or leader - Y.S.], that is to say himself, as the last nasi. Beyond that, the rebbe himself had no descendents, and among the Hasidim there is no outstanding candidate upon whom they can agree.
"What is interesting is what the rebbe himself thought, how he thought the Hasidut would continue after him. In my opinion, he solved this question for himself by really believing that he was the Messiah, or at least that our age is a messianic age and in any case the question does not exist. Otherwise, it is hard to understand how a wise person like him thought that the Hasidut would continue."
I heard the following story from a source who heard it directly from Chana Gourary, the daughter of the Rayatz and sister-in-law of the Rebbe: Concerned about succession and afraid her father's hasidut would end, Chana approached her sister Chaya Moussia, the Rebbe's wife, in the early 1980's and asked what arrangements had been made in this regard. Moussia did not know of any plans for succession, so she asked the Rebbe what plans he had made. The Rebbe smiled at his wife and responded, "After me the Deluge." (After me the Flood.)
And so it will be.
*[Yes, it is possible the Rayatz was deceived by others or simply believed a falsehood to be true. But according to Chabad theology, a complete tzaddik is infallible and all Chabad rebbes are by their definition complete tzaddikim. So can a rebbe who believes transparent and fanciful lies be a rebbe in Chabad? No he cannot.]