I enjoy Rabbi Lapin’s podcast and Mrs. Lapin’s “Musings” very much. Can you explain what you mean by the phrase “happy warriors”?
Thank you, and may G-d bless your family.
This is such a great question that in addition to answering it here, we will be putting it up on the FAQ section of our website.
First, to give credit where it’s due, at the start of the 19th century, the English poet William Wordsworth wrote a poem, The Character of The Happy Warrior. The opening stanza goes like this:
Who is the happy Warrior? Who is he
That every man in arms should wish to be?
—It is the generous Spirit, who, when brought
Among the tasks of real life, hath wrought
Upon the plan that pleased his boyish thought:
Whose high endeavours are an inward light
That makes the path before him always bright;
Who, with a natural instinct to discern
What knowledge can perform, is diligent to learn;
Abides by this resolve, and stops not there,
But makes his moral being his prime care;
You get the idea. We use the phrase ‘happy warrior’ to focus on the idea that we are as much soul as we are body. To live productively, we have to fight—every day—against the force of entropy as represented both in the physical and spiritual realms. From the time we awake until we put our heads upon our pillows for the night we struggle to overcome the invisible forces that constantly resist our efforts at self-improvement. We fight to build and maintain our families, we fight to maintain our possessions and our money, we fight to maintain our bodies and our businesses, professions and careers. We fight to grow the Godly sparks within us.
It even takes money and sweat to keep the weeds out of our gardens, our roof shingles waterproof, and our house siding painted. Keeping our weight down and our strength up demands relentless effort.
God created a world in which spiritual gravity is a reality tugging us downwards while chaos and disorder rule, as described in Gen 1:2 by the phrase ‘Tohu Bohu.’ Life is a struggle to conquer that chaos and disorder. That is a good thing…to stop fighting, seeking and striving is to die. We use the phrase Happy Warriors because to throw yourself into the fight is one thing, but to do all that with a debonair smile on your face and a jaunty pace to your stride all while generating an irrepressible surge of happiness welling up in your soul—well, that means you are spiritually grounded in everything that is life-affirming. It means being devoted to your faith, your family, your finances and your friends. It means that you transform timidity to triumph and displace the divided counsels of doubt with the steady eyes and firm hearts of those who know where they are going and just how they are going to get there. Being a happy warrior means being a gentle giant with a huge and humble heart.
Here is the Biblical basis for our phrase.
On Friday nights before the start of the meal, Jewish men often serenade their wives by singing Proverbs 31. This is often translated as “A Woman of Valor” and ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that it was Abraham’s eulogy for his wife, Sarah. Composed with prophecy, each line refers to another great Biblical woman.
The song begins with the Hebrew words Eshet Chayil, which can be translated as. “A woman of valor,” and, that is how the section is best known. However, another way to translate those words is, “The wife of a valiant man.” In this way, both the husband and wife, man and woman with the traits that are described are celebrated.
Our “Happy Warrior” phrase combines this idea with the verse from Psalms 100, “Serve God with gladness, come before Him with joy.” When we recognize that each day and each challenge is an opportunity to serve God, we step forward to valiantly fight with a smile, knowing that we are fulfilling a purpose on His earth.
Like most important ideas, Kristyn, this isn’t an elevator statement that can be delivered in half a minute, but Happy Warriors welcome complex and sometimes even incompatible ideas that spur them to growth.
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin
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