The Altar – for the courtyard
There were two Mizbachos/altars in the Mishkan. One was outside, filled with earth, on which the animals were brought as Karbanos. It was made of Nechoshes – copper. Inside the Tabernacle was the Zahav/gold one which was not used for the animal sacrifices. We have to realize that there is an outside physicality to us and an inner spirituality. So on a Shabbos, we take care of the physicality, the outside, with food and clothing, just like the outside Mizbayach/altar had animals used to connect to G-d. However, we can’t forget there was inside another altar used for Ketores, for incense. Smell is not an outside thing, it’s a taking in to ourselves (intake of breath AHH). So too, in our Mitzvos there is an inwards part of it, too – and that is the focus and the thoughts. Shabbos, yes, we have the outside trappings of Challah, but we also have to have an inside service…we have to be thinking of connecting with G-d (intake of spiritual concepts AHHH).
Another lesson from the inner Mizbayach, the pure gold one. On it was burned the Ketores, the incense. That smell wafted so far that anyone living in Jerusalem smelled like the Ketores and the smell even went beyond Yerushalayim. What we do, the work we do inside, where no one sees, if done purely like the Ketores, the effect goes beyond our own circles. Sometimes we do Mitzvos sincerely and purely in the secret of our home and wonder what good it does. A mitzvah done right has impact beyond what we see, just like the smell went beyond the inner courtyard.
The Shema corresponds in our day and age to the Mizbayach Ha’Zahav.