The above quote from the Torah is among the final words that Yaakov spoke to his most beloved son, Yosef haTzadik, before he died. It is an eternal blessing for Yosef's two sons, Ephraim and Menashe.
This is certainly a curious bracha. What is so potent in the comparison of the children to increase and grow "like fish in the land?"
Embedded in these words is the secret message of how one can always enjoy learning, and continue to yearn for the wisdom of the Torah to permeate our lives. For the answer, lets take a look at the nature of fish.
An Unquenchable Thirst
Have you ever noticed that when rain falls over a body of water, such as a lake, fish swim to the surface and open their mouths to drink in the splashing droplets? Fish live surrounded by and filled with water, yet they instinctively want more.
The Midrash says this is an analogy for the Jew who lives his life immersed in learning Torah. When he hears a new Torah thought, he drinks in the fresh insight as if to satiate an unquenchable thirst.
Swim With the Tzadikim
We all want to enhance our lives as Torah Jews, yet total immersion in Torah learning is unattainable for most of us. One way we can imbibe holiness is to host a tzaddik, a Torah scholar for a meal.
The Talmud relates that when one hosts a Torah scholar in his home, it is as if he have made an offering in the Temple!
This is because a pious person eats entirely for the sake of Heaven. Therefore, the food we provide for him has the properties of a sacrifice in the Bais HaMikdash. The sanctity inherent in a tzaddik’s act of eating brings the Divine Presence to the table, and all present benefit.
You do not have your own personal tzadik? Find one. Drink in his wisdom knowing that Hashem has made him and emissary of the Almighty. Then be a tzadika yourself.
How does one become a tzadika? Simply by showing respect for our tzaddikim: our Rabbis and Torah teachers, the Torah leaders of our community and the Gedolim of our generation. Attach yourself to the Jew who lives his life immersed in learning Torah and you, too can spiral upward towards the surface, and be continuously satiated with the fresh taste of Torah.
Their First Torah Teachers