Some people are uncomfortable with the term warrior.  But maybe there is something to learn from that discomfort itself.   Turning one’s back on one’s call to spiritual warriorhood may prove to be a version of spiritual bypass. 

U2 perform a rare version of Mothers of the Disappeared in Santiago, Chile, 1998, with the actual mothers on stage with the band. The Mothers began demonstrating in the Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, in April 1977 to petition for the living return of their disappeared children, holding accountable the military dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla. Video uploaded to YouTube by SJGrantski.

We all share responsibilities for creating a more just world and that means standing up to injustices and the giant forces that perpetuate them.  To stand up takes warrior energy.  To stay in the struggle takes warrior energy.

“Femininity,” being “ladylike” and going shopping and homemaking without any options–all this is part of putting down the inherent warriorhood of women.  Entrenched powers stifle spiritual warriorhood hoping to channel its energy exclusively to soldierhood or war-making on behalf of the powerful.  This keeps patriarchy going.

It may be that not only our nation-state and corporate state worldviews have limited our understanding of warriorhood but sexism does the same. 

A patriarchal culture seeks to deny women their warriorhood, deny women their masculine and assertive role.

“Climate Justice Now!” Art by Nissa Tzun, commissioned by Vince Reinhart, portraying climate heroes Greta Thunberg, Quanna Chasing Horse Potts, and Isra Hirsi. On Flickr.

In Judaism, the spiritual warrior is identified with the Messiah as in the following text from Wisdom literature.

When peaceful silence lay overall,
and night had run the half of her swift course,
down from the heavens, from the royal throne, leapt your all-powerful Word:
into the heart of a doomed land the stern warrior leapt….
he touched the sky, yet trod the earth.

The Christian tradition actually uses this text in its celebration of Christmas eve liturgy.  Christ depicted as a spiritual warrior.

The prophetic tradition of Israel can be seen in the light of spiritual warriorhood.  As Rabbi Heschel put it, what is uppermost in the prophets’ mind is injustice:

Senator Bernie Sanders (D.,VT) at a town hall meeting. Photo by Gage Skidmore on Wikimedia Commons.

the presence of oppression and corruption.  The urgency of justice was an urgency of aiding and saving the victims of oppression.

This was the work of the prophets.  They sought out leaders, kings, princes, false prophets, and priests as the ones responsible for the sins of the community.  Taking on the leaders was a warrior-like task. 

Isaiah says:

The Lord enters into judgment
With the elders and princes of his people:
It is you who have devoured the vineyard,
The spoil of the poor is in your houses.
What do you mean by crushing the people,
By grinding the face of the poor?
Says the Lord of hosts.

Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Rashida Tlaib (D-MN), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) have brought the voices and presence of fearless women to the U.S. House of Representatives. Photos: Congressional portraits. U.S. House Office of Photography, public domain.

Who can deny that there is an “urgency of justice” in this time of global warming (eco-justice), coronavirus (health care justice), the growing chasm between haves and have-nots (economic justice), the effort to kill democracy and deny citizens their right to vote (political and racial justice), the trafficking of girls and women (gender justice) and the killing of people of color (racial justice) and more?

Yet Heschel reminds us that all people are to be prophets.  “To do justice is what God demands of every person: it is the supreme commandment, and one that cannot be fulfilled vicariously.”  This means we all have to develop our spiritual warriorhood.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 406f, 411f.

Banner Image: The anti-Zionist observant Jewish sect of Neturei Karta protesting US supported Israeli bombings and invasion of Lebanon. Photo by Danny Hammontree on Flickr.

How do you feel encouraged to develop your own spiritual warriorhood?  What unique spins do you put on your expression of the same?

One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths

Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.“Reading One River, Many Wells is like entering the rich silence of a masterfully directed retreat. As you read this text, you reflect, you pray, you embrace Divinity. Truly no words can fully express my respect and awe for this magnificent contribution to contemporary spirituality.” –Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit

The Hidden Spirituality of Men: Ten Metaphors to Awaken the Sacred Masculine

To awaken what Fox calls “the sacred masculine,” he unearths ten metaphors, or archetypes, ranging from the Green Man, an ancient pagan symbol of our fundamental relationship with nature,  to the Spiritual Warrior….These timeless archetypes can inspire men to pursue their higher calling to connect to their deepest selves and to reinvent the world.
“Every man on this planet should read this book — not to mention every woman who wants to understand the struggles, often unconscious, that shape the men they know.” — Rabbi Michael Lerner, author of The Left Hand of God

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5 thoughts on “Spiritual Warriorhood in Judaism”

    1. Avatar

      I see him as a spiritual warrior. He and others like the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., just fought peacefully.

  1. Avatar

    Thank you, Matthew Fox, for your clarity and passion. I agree that the word “warrior” can trigger something that calls for inner searching and need not be a negative at all. We all must fight injustice in our own ways, in my opinion, but we must stand up for our neighbors. As you point out, injustice is at the root of all oppression of any group.

  2. Avatar

    The fearless women of the U.S. House of Representatives, shown above, are not pleased with Joe Biden. Biden is a moderate, something sorely lacking during the Trump administration. We cannot advance the needs of the majority of Americans by being too progressive or too conservative.

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