Jewish Mysticism
The incense offering is beloved, for it is dear and beloved before the Holy One, blessed be He, more than all [other] forms of service and worship in the world. And even though prayer is the highest form of all, the offering of the incense is dear and precious before the Holy One, blessed be He. Come and see. What is the difference between prayer and the offering of the incense? Prayer is adorned in the place where Israel used to offer sacrifices. And of all of the sacrifices that Israel performed, none of these are not considered the same as incense. And moreover, what is the difference between the two? Prayer is the adornment to adorn that which is necessary. Incense does more, adorning and binding bonds, and making more light than all. What is it? For it removes filth and it purifies the mishkan, and everything shines and is adorned and is bound as one. For this reason we must place the offering of the incense before prayer each and every day and to remove filth from the world, for it is the adornment of all, in the manner of that precious sacrifice in which the Holy One, blessed be He, is aroused… Once everything is connected in this connection, all is crowned in the mystery of ein sof, and the mystery of the name shines and is crowned in all sides and all of the worlds in delight, and the lights shine, and sustenance and blessings are found in all of the worlds, in the mystery of incense. And if the filth is not removed, all is not made, for all depends on this. Come and see. Incense always comes first before all, and because of this, the offering [‘ovda] of the incense must come before prayer, with songs and praises, because all of this does not ascend and is not adorned and is not bound until the filth is removed. Why is it written, “And make atonement for the sanctuary” (Lev. 16-16) first, and then “[from the impurities of the children of Israel,] and from their transgressions, for all of their sins…” This is why we must make atonement for the sanctuary and remove the filth and purify the sanctuary. And then, songs and praises and prayers, all of them, as we have said. Meritorious is Israel in this world and in the world to come, for they know how to adorn adornments above and below. When we wish to adorn adornment from below to above until everything is bound as one bond in that supernal bond, when we desire to adorn adornment, we must do so through the inscribed letters by which the Holy One, blessed be He, is called.

Translated by Hartley Lachter