There was recently a question sent to my former Rosh Yeshiva (Rabbi Brovender) on the Jerusalem Posts's Ask the Rabbi Column - and I thought that he gave a very clear answer, while avoiding the crux of the question ...
Q: Some people suggest in the name of well known Torah giants that the Torah rejects the notion of a deceased leader of the Jewish people being qualified to be the long awaited messiah.
They explain that fostering such a belief encourages some Jewish people to believe that the late Lubavitcher Rebbe could still be the messiah, even after his demise.
They also explain that this is not only a dangerous belief for young people, who are prone to be disappointed and abandon Orthodox practice.
Rather, there is no basis in the words of our sages obm, not in the Talmud, nor in Rabbinic writings that appeared later.
Regarding statements in the Talmud and rabbinic writing like Sdei Chemed, the concept of min hamasim is presented, these people suggest these is not meant to be understood literally.
Which view is valid?
A: The topic of the messiah appearing in our time in the guise of the previous Lubavitcher rebbe has become a serious matter in our time. Some are vehemently in favor (mostly hasidim) and some are opposed (some hasidim and many others). I take it that you feel you have to have a position and would like me to give some direction.
Although sympathetic to the enterprise of the Rabbe and in spite of the fact that I visited (yechidus) several times, I have never been part of the Habad movement. When this idea began to gain support from within I must admit that it left me cold. After all, the rebbe had many opportunities to announce his messianism which he only alluded to (according to some interpreters). The Rambam says that when the messiah comes we will all know. That seems reasonable to me. There is no doubt that the Jewish people (outside of Habad) do not know. The Rambam states further that we should try to avoid dwelling on the matter of the messiah since it is not really part of the information package that we received in our tradition.
I have thought about it and I have no way to connect to the notion that the rebbe who died some years ago continues to function as the messiah.
In spite of the rebbes obvious greatness, it seems to be another mistake that the Jews have made on this topic.
We continue to pray fo the coming of the messiah in our time.