The Human Temple
The Temple contained two altars: the Copper Altar, situated in the Temple courtyard, and the Golden Altar, located in the Temple’s sanctuary, which was used for offering the daily incense. The Jewish body and soul is today’s Temple of G‑d; the heart is the altar, the fire on the altar is the unquenchable love every Jew has for G‑d, and you are the sacrifice – intended to be consumed by this fiery love and brought closer to G‑d.

The prayers of today are in lieu of the sacrifices of old. Corresponding to these two altars, are two types of prayers; prayers which come from the “external heart,” and prayers which emanate from the very depths and essence of the Jewish heart.

Selfish vs. Selfless Love
The Torah tells us (Deut. 30:20), “Love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and cleave to Him, for He is your life.” Contemplating that G‑d is the benefactor who constantly supplies you with everything, including the most precious commodity of all – life, is bound to awaken within your heart a love for Him. The more you focus on this, and prayer is the appropriate time for this meditation, the greater the love you will feel.

However, this love is predicated on one’s sense of self, and therefore is considered to be a sacrifice of the “External Altar.”

The internal love a Jew harbors for G‑d is expressed in the verse, “The candle of G‑d is the soul of Man” (Proverbs 20:27). Just as a flame is always reaching upwards, that’s its very nature, so too, the soul of a Jew has a natural love for G‑d, a love that stems from the fact that the very essence of the soul is a spark of G‑dliness. This is why the Jew is willing to die rather than desert G‑d, because the Jew’s connection to G‑d is actually deeper than his very sense of self.

This love is symbolized by the incense which was offered in the Temple. The Hebrew word Ketoret (incense) means total unity – the unity between the Jewish soul and its emanator.

Two Levels of Prayer
Prayer is our expression of love for G‑d. All prayers convey love for G‑d, and all forms of love are valid and acceptable, but prayer is particularly meaningful when one can tap into his internal reservoir of infinite love for G‑d. This is why Jewish law does not give a definitive ruling in the argument between Rabbi Judah and the Sages; because prayer contains both aspects – the (external) love symbolized by the animal offerings, and the essential love symbolized by the incense.

This is especially true of the Mincha prayer – the stage of the dispute between Rabbi Judah and the Sages. Shacharit is recited in the early morning hours, when the person is fresh out of bed and still has not plunged into the superficial world of business, money, and ego. Maariv is recited at night, after the person has left behind the office, and is ready for a little spirituality. Mincha, however, is smack in middle of the work-day; it interrupts the work rhythm and cuts short the important meeting. It is the utter devotion to G‑d which gives the Jew the strength to tear away from the intensity of the job and connect with the Creator.