Who is a “Happy Warrior”?

July 1st, 2020 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 14 comments

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.


Kristyn H.

Hi Kristyn,

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.

Keep fighting,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Anne Rose says:

Would love to know more details about each woman from Proverbs 31

Susan Lapin says:

Anne, it’s a fascinating study. Maybe, one of these days…

DavidJ says:

Thank you for that detailed explanation, Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin. “Happy warrior” seems to be a simple phrase, but I didn’t realize until seeing your explanation that it is a rather deep topic.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin says:

To be sure, DavidJ,
It is a deep appellation and essentially a call-to-action.

John Thomas Themalil says:

Good morning Kristyn,
It appears you asked the to “My Rabbi” on my behalf. I have taken ‘happy warrior’ for granted. Its biblical, as well as its classic romantic literature base, is very enlightening.

Kristyn says:

I was delighted that Rabbi Lapin answered my question. I have felt more like an exhausted warrior lately. 🙂 His response is truly inspirational.
Peace and good, Kristyn

Susan Lapin says:

John Thomas, as every teacher knows, when one student asks a question, many more have the same one.

Jeff says:

As always you inspire me to be more, do more & press on !

Love the wording … ‘to stop fighting, seeking and striving is to die’

michael j gries says:

“Happiness is a Moral Obligation” – Dennis Praeger

We must all strive to do & be right, be a Warrior, at every moment. Also to help others do the same; also rewarding our own happiness.

Remember, He is with us always. We are not alone with this duty. “Vocatus atque non vocatus Deus aderit”

Kristyn says:

Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin,
Thank you so much for answering my question. I have felt very worn down with the many difficult events of the past six months in our country. I have had more of a “I won’t quit even if it kills me” warrior mentality, which is much different from the magnanimous and confident person you describe. One phrase that stands out to me is to be “spiritually grounded in everything that is life-affirming.” Oh, a thousand times, YES. Thank you again for taking the time to answer my question. I almost didn’t ask because I was afraid it was silly. 🙂 Sincerely, Kristyn
P.S. I agree with a previous comment. I would love to learn more about the different women described in Proverbs 31.

Mark Z says:

My Rabbi and Susan, I start each day by reading Psalm100, 143:8 and Lamentation 3:22-23. that helps me on my quest to be a happy warrior.Love you.

Steve Vasquez says:

May I add my 2-cents-worth?
I too would “love to learn more about the different women described in Proverbs 31.” And thank you Kristyn for asking the question. Thank you Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin for answering the question. As always, your words are very timely and oh so encouraging. This Happy Warrior was feeling a little discouraged (not anymore).
I’m going to print Mr. Wordsworth’s poem and make the opening stanza part of my morning reading.
Keep up the good work. Blessings be upon you as in …..Numbers 6:22-27.

Kristy says:

Wow! Thank you for sharing! So AMAZING! As a side note, after hearing you on TCT about writing down what you are thankful for, each morning when we rise, we write down 3 things we are thankful for, so that we begin our day being thankful. At the end if the day, we (5 of us) share what we are thankful for with each other. Sometimes those that have a hard time saying certain things out loud will write it in their thankful journal and share. It has been wonderful for us as a family! Thank you Rabbi and Susan!

Susan Lapin says:

That is so true, Kristy, that we can sometimes write things down that are difficult to articulate. We’re so glad that we were able to give you a good suggestion.

We would love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment.

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