Holiness inheres in all worldly matters, for they are all capable of being used for augmenting holiness. They are keylim (instruments) of holiness. In the Holy Temple all the vessels, and indeed everything and anything that could serve the holy ends of the Temple service, partook of holiness. Similarly, in the everyday world, everything, however “worldly,” has something of that same quality of holiness, since it is capable of being used for a holy purpose.
This is the deeper meaning of the saying that the table of a talmid chachom is like an alter and his eating resembles a korban. Eating, for such a person, is indeed a sublime, sanctified act, since it enables him to reinforce his powers for the fulfillment of the Torah. Happy is the one who is enabled to fulfill mitzvos such as these in holiness and purity! ~ R’ Eliyahu Dessler zt”l
alter FYI– It’s spelled “altar.” “Alter” with a letter e means “old” in Yiddish and German.