Are there any contemporary sources that discuss how to approach reports or stories in circulation among the Jewish public that stretch credulity? Is it incumbent upon us to find meaning in them?

I am thinking of fantastic tales, such as the famous talking fish in New Square, or allegedly reincarnated cats in Israel responding to "מחול לך" ("you're forgiven"), a child born knowing the entirety of Torah, etc.

We have plenty of fantastic sounding tales transmitted by Hazal, but we also have traditions about how to interpret such (for example Rabbenu Abhraham's treatment). In the circles I come from, such modern stories are routinely dismissed out of hand, and what can be learned from such stories is more in the line of critical thinking, psychology, etc. rather than taking such tales at face-value and trying to find some deeper underlying meaning. Are there those that exhort that we ought seek out such meaning? If such sources are to be found, what methods do they suggest applying to accepting or disbelieving such tales, and what we are to learn from them?

  • 2
    I don't think the popular refrain is precisely true ("If you believe all the stories you're a fool, if you dismiss them all out of hand you are a heretic"), but it does generally reflect the idea that miracles are possible but that rumors and tales should be treated with skepticism.
    – Fred
    Mar 8 at 15:49
  • @Fred That was a comment by the Satmar Rav about stories of the Baal Shem Tov.
    – N.T.
    Mar 8 at 18:58


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