Come and look at the verse, "an altar, a place for the burning of incense". (Ex. 30:1) Why is it called an "altar," [derived from a word meaning "slay"; the Satan is slain by the service on the 2 altars] and "a place for burning incense" [in addition]? This is because [strength] is taken from that place to bind1 [the kelipot that they should be unable to accuse], as Aaron did. Moreover, an altar [refers to the Shechinah], which must be bound [to holiness and] sanctified by that incense, therefore it is [referred to by the word] "binding" [meaning connection]. Also, [to emphasize] that 'the burning of incense' must always be burnt only on this altar aside from [once a year on Yom Kippur, when it is burnt] on a censer [placed between the poles of the Aron in the Holy of Holies.]

...whoever is pursued by judgment is in need of this incense...

Come and see: whoever is pursued by judgment is in need of this incense and must repent before his Master. For it helps judgment disappear from him. And surely judgment leaves him, if he is accustomed to say twice a day, morning and evening, the passage of the incense, as is written: "sweet incense every morning" and "towards evening, he shall burn incense upon it". (Ex. 30:7-8) Upon this the world continually exists, as is said, "a continuous incense before G‑d throughout your generations". (Ibid. 30:8) Surely this world is sustained by it and so is the World to Come.

Wherever the section of incense formulation is not mentioned daily, judgments from above dwell there and many plagues hover above this place, and it is ruled by other nations. Therefore it is written: "a continuous incense before G‑d." It stands always before G‑d, more than any other devotion. The section of the incense is more precious and delightful to the Holy One, blessed be He, than all worship and petitions. And though prayer is most valuable, the section of the incense formulation is highly regarded and precious to G‑d.

Come and see the difference between prayer and the section of incense. Prayer was composed instead of the [animal] sacrifices offered by Israel. But all those sacrifices are not as valuable as the incense. Also, the difference between them is that prayer perfects whatever needs perfection. Incense, on the other hand, does more by both perfecting and binding and brings more light than anything else, removes filth and cleanses the Tabernacle. And everything is shining, perfected and joined together.

Therefore the section of incense is recited before the prayer every day, to remove filth from the world; for it perfects everything on that day, like a desired sacrifice with which G‑d is pleased.

...it is as a purified wife bringing pleasure to her husband.

It is written of Moses, "And G‑d said to Moses, take to you sweet spices, balm..." (Ex. 30:34) This was already explained. Nevertheless, why is it written here: "take to you", that was not said elsewhere? "Take to you" for your pleasure and benefit. For it is as a purified wife bringing pleasure to her husband. This is the inner meaning of "take to you sweet spices," to remove the filth, so that the wife is sanctified by her husband. Blessed is the portion of Moses [to whom it was said to "take for your own pleasure"].

BeRahamim LeHayyim: As Judaism has diversified, with many different and novel prayer orders created to meet the asserted needs of the respective communities, one of the biggest "victims" has been the Incense portion, which has virtually been excised from the daily service. What a shame! For years these words have had both a subtle and supernal effect on the reader. Too, the words "remove filth from the world."

How quick are some to seek "spiritual guidance" from other traditions when the cure may be found in our own Judaic backyard. Feeling supernally judged negatively? Recite the incense portion with intention. Feeling like you need a spiritual cleansing? Recite the incense portion with intention. Feeling like the Egyptians did when they were all-plagued out? Recite the incense portion with intention. That is the advice of the Zohar, that is the advice of our Sages, that is the advice for all.


[Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries]