In Parshas Vayechi, the final parsha in Sefer Bereishis, Yaakov Avinu is at the waning moments of his life. He blesses his grandsons Ephraim and Menashe, and in their bracha he gives them a unique wish. The famous bracha turned contemporary Jewish song (48:16): “May the angel who redeemed me from all harm bless the youths, and may they be called by my name and the name of my fathers, Abraham and Isaac, and may they multiply abundantly like fish, in the midst of the land.” Rashi here writes that the blessing refers to fish, who proliferate and multiply, and additionally, are unaffected by the concept of ayin hara.
Rabbi Pinchas Friedman, the Rosh Kollel of the Belzer Kollel in Yerushalayim whose shiurim are published as Shvilei Pinchas, connects three instances found in different passages of the Gemara that can shed great light on the hidden magnitude of this bracha.
Fish can serve as an example in our quest to greater connect to Hashem. This is portrayed in Avodah Zarah (3b) where Rav Yehudah in the name of Shmuel asks why human beings are compared to the fish of the sea. The answer recorded in the Gemara is that it’s to teach that just as the fish of the sea will die if they go up onto dry land, so, too, do Jews who disconnect themselves from Torah and mitzvos will meet the same fate.
This “flows” to Bava Kamma 17a which records “There is no water other than Torah, as it says (Yeshayahu 55:1): ‘All that are thirsty, go to the water.’”
Finally, Kiddushin 30b notes that “Hashem said to Bnai Yisrael: ‘My children, I have created the yetzer hara and I have created the Torah as its antidote; if you engage in Torah-study, you will not fall prey to it.’”
Fish can only survive in water. We, too are charged with staying in the “water”, the vast ocean of Torah. The fish, as Rashi explains, does not succumb to the ayin or yetzer hara. Our remedy to falling victim to the yetzer hara is limud haTorah. The message is clear to us: if we are to abandon the waters of Torah, we cannot survive.