A teaching of Dov Baer, the Maggid of Mezeritch, from Or Torah, Parshat Vayigash.
וַיִּגַּשׁ אֵלָיו יְהוּדָה וַיֹּאמֶר בִּי אֲדֹנִי יְדַבֶּר נָא עַבְדְּךָ דָבָר בְּאָזְנֵי אֲדֹנִי וְאַל יִחַר אַפְּךָ בְּעַבְדֶּךָ Then Judah approached him and said, “Please, my lord, let now your servant speak something into my lord’s ears, and let not your wrath be kindled against your servant.” Genesis 44:18
Our sages said that “approaching means prayer,” and so this verse can be seen as hinting at prayer (1). Judah (Yehudah) represents every yehudi, every Jew, and here he shows us how to pray: that the whole purpose of our prayer should be to bring the divine effulgence to G!d’s glorious immanence, the Shekhinah (2). This is the meaning of the sages’ saying, “One should only pray in a reverent state of mind,” literally, “in honor of the head,” that is, in honor of “the head of all heads” [the Shekhinah] (3). Even if you pray for your own needs, it should be with the intent that there should be no lack above, for the soul is a part of G!d above, and is one of the “limbs” of the Shekhinah [and so our own lacks are reflections of the Shekhinah‘s needs]. This is the true essence of petitionary prayer, that Heaven should receive what it needs and be fulfilled. Then your prayer is certainly accepted and no evil power can speak against it (but it is not so with those who pray only for their own needs, whom the Zohar compares to barking dogs) (4). Also, as we know, speech is called Yehudah, for it flows from thought, which is called Yud Heh, and becomes speech, designated by the letter Vav, and turns the Dalet into a Heh (5).
This is the meaning of Yehudah approached [in prayer]: he said, Fulfill my request for Your own sake, for I am a part of You, and this is the meaning of In me, my L!rd [a literal translation of “Please, my lord”], let now your servant speak something into my L!rd’s ears, for Your own voice, the World of Speech, speaks through me, and let not your wrath be kindled, let no evil power speak against me, for I pray only for the sake of G!d above, a part of Whom is in me.
1) Tanchuma Vayeira 8 2) The Shekhinah is the immanent (and usually feminine) aspect of G!d, as opposed to the transcendent aspect, or in other words, G!d in the world. 3) Berachot 30b: אין עומדין להתפלל אלא מתוך כובד ראש ayn ‘omdin lehitpalel ela mitoch koved rosh 4) Tikkunei Zohar .תו, כב; the Aramaic word for “give” is hav, which is the equivalent of our “woof.” 5) Yehudah יהודה is Yud י Heh ה Vav ו Dalet ד Heh ה, which is G!d’s name (YHVH) with the addition of the Dalet. Yud and Heh stand for the higher sefirot of Chochmah and Binah, Wisdom and Understanding, the Worlds of Thought, through which G!d’s effulgence first flows in its descent to this world. Vav stands for the six sefirot below, especially the central pillar of Tiferet, the World of Speech, which joins the upper sefirot to the lowest sefirah, Malkhut, the Shekhinah, represented by the final Heh of G!d’s name. Through the Vav, the World of Speech, the divine effulgence transforms the Dalet ד in Yehudah’s name, which is like a closed door, delet (dalet literally means “door” and is the pictographic source of the letter), and a poor person, dal, into a Heh ה, an open door that allows G!d’s bounty to flow from above to below.