Commenting on the thread Harry Goes To Confession, Milhouse checks in:
I did read the book when it came out, and it did shock me, but not in a way that Berger intended. The book is littered with gross misstatements of fact, stupid assumptions that showed how little he knew about his subject (any Lubavitcher could have corrected many of these, had he bothered to ask one). But besides these little things, it betrays a major flaw in its premise.
The entire book is based on the premise that if he can establish that Chabad is like the first generation of Xians, then he has landed a damning blow. He never stops to consider whether those early Xians, who believed that their dead Rebbe was the moshiach, were michutz lamachaneh. He assumes that Jews must not be like those people, that we must not share their belief, that there is some sort of aveira or apikorsus in doing so. But he never bothers to prove it.
I have been saying for the past 13 years, long before Berger's book came out, that the meshichistn are exactly like those early Xians. But I don't see it as a chisoron. You will not find a din, in Shulchon Oruch, Rambam, or anywhere else, that one must not believe that Moshiach will come from the dead. Es shtait nisht. And if someone wants to believe that of Yoizel, as far as I'm concerned, gezunterheit. So long as he believes in everything that a Jew must believe, and keeps all the dinim that a Jew must keep, he can believe whatever else he likes. The only things he might be over on are the possuk ve'omru rak am chochom venovon hagoy hagodol hazeh, and the line in Tanya which says ve'al yehi shoteh. But we all have our own mishugassen, so I'm willing to let this be his. Al achas kamoh vekamoh when he believes not in Yoizel but lehavdil in the Rebbe.
Berger, though, seems to be fixated on the idea that Yiddiskeit is defined as "not-Christianity," and whatever he can identify as Xianity must automatically be anathema to Jews. Well, it ain't so, and this invalidates his entire jihad against Lubavitch.
One piece in his book starkly demonstrates the depth of his blind fanaticism. He talks about a Lubavitcher he used to admire, who had shown amazing mesirus nefesh in the USSR, literal readiness to give up his life for der Eibershter, and Berger used to admire him for it. But then he heard this Jew express himself in a way vos hot em nisht gefelen, he heard this Jew say what he is convinced is apikorsus, and he wrote how much it pained him to have to reject this Jew and condemn him to the depths of the Pit, chas vesholom.
Her tzu, if this person is such a paragon, and he says something that you don't like, did it cross your mind that maybe he's right and you're wrong? Did you even consider it for a moment? Maybe you too should become a masochist like him? If you did think of it, but after careful consideration were not persuaded, meileh; I'm also not convinced, I also don't share this yid's views, so how can I demand it of you? But Berger didn't even consider the possibility. He's a fanatic, it's like he's a vampire and he's terrified of anything that even vaguely resembles a tzeilem, because his entire Yiddishkeit seems to be defined as a negative; he's not a Jew, he's a not-Xian. He's made his career battling Xian missionaries, and for him now to admit that some of the arguments he made against them may not be as strong as he thought, this is impossible for him.
In reality, Berger and the neo-misnagdim are making exactly the same mistake as the radical meshichistn. The yellow people insist not just that the Rebbe is moshiach, but that everybody must acknowledge it, and one who denies it is an apikores. And the neo-misnagdim say the exact opposite; not only is the Rebbe not moshiach, but everyone must deny it, and one who accepts it is an apikores. Both sides of this coin are equally alien to ruach yisroel sabbo, and I reject both with equal vehemence.
(Nevertheless, while the meshichistn may not be apikorsim, they are embarrassing, and I wish they'd keep their eccentric views to themselves. But I wish the same about Manis Friedman with his homeopathy, and Mrs Halberstam with her crusade against the second amendment, etc. That doesn't make them michutz lamachaneh, or their wine and shechita treif, ch"v).