| Behind the Book |

More than Special

Ahava Ehrenpreis looks beyond the label to see the soul within
Book: More than Special
Author: Ahava Ehrenpreis
Publisher: ArtScroll, Shaar Press


The book in one line

An anthology of voices reflect on the “More than Special” kids among us, including hashkafah, salient advice, and a rich variety of first-person accounts and essays.

The story behind the book

One word: Saadya Ehrenpreis. (All right, that was two words!)

To elaborate: I was inspired to write this book following the petirah of my son Saadya a”h from COVID-19. I wanted to memorialize him in a way that would benefit Klal Yisrael, that would continue his legacy of trying to make things “Okay!” for everyone. I wanted Saadya’s story to provide chizuk, validation, and encouragement to families with individuals with special needs.

But more than that, I wanted to include resources to help mold the way we look at the challenges. I wanted gedolim to help us understand the role of every individual in halachah, in hashkafah, whatever their “capability.” I wanted psychologists and therapists to define what is “normal.” I wanted to discuss financial and legal planning.

Mostly I wanted the book to be a forum for the voices of parents, siblings, grandparents, and individuals with challenges, too. I asked the contributors to write in their own words, from their hearts, to give the authenticity of their feelings. I wanted readers to find the story that echoed their emotions, their fears, their triumphs… so that they know they are not alone on the path the One Above has chosen for their family.

Finally, I wanted to sensitize the world at large to be more aware of people’s challenges, and the need for respect and empathy. I wanted to share the joy and beauty of inclusivity. When we open our doors, our schools, our homes, and our hearts, we gain so much more than we give.

The hardest part to write

My instinct was to focus solely on Saadya’s story, in all its glorious detail (with pictures!). I wanted to regale the world with his charm, his abilities, his strength, his determination, his wisdom, his ground-breaking achievements!

But I realized that it was more important that this book appeal to the general reading public, even if they actually had never heard of Saadya Ehrenpreis (as difficult as it is to consider that possibility).

Significance of the title

I’ve always thought it ironic that the term “special” has become a euphemism for limitations. I wanted the title to send the message that we need to look beyond the diagnosis or the “disability.”

What I left unwritten

I could write a second book with the many amazing and extraordinary voices, the stories told by parents trying to do the very best for their child and still be a parent, spouse, and member of Klal Yisrael. I would include the early progressive attitudes in the letters of the Novominsker Rebbe and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, in which they share their view of the role and the value of every neshamah.

What I'd like readers to walk away with

There is potential for everyone to enrich Klal Yisrael. Everyone serves Hashem in his or her own unique role, and we cannot determine which is more precious to the One Above.

I wanted those in the world of “special” individuals to feel a sense of validation and to realize that they’re not alone; I hope this book gives them pride in their strength, and helps strengthen their desire to do what is best for their child or family member.

Author: Rabbi Reinman, a.k.a. Avner Gold

If I could live in any period in Jewish history, I'd pick...

…the present. I believe that the Jews have never been as free, as prosperous, and as secure as they are today. Yes, we’re at risk, but this is as good as it can possibly be. For the most part, we’re blessed not to have the kind of poverty where children don’t have bread; for thousands of years, so many Jews suffered that way. Other than the reign of Shlomo Hamelech, when our nation enjoyed true tranquility, our past has been filled with turmoil and bloodshed and strife. We are lucky to live in calmer times today.

Besides that communal benefit, we’re able to accomplish so much more today. I’ve written over 70 seforim and books, and I’d never have been able to accomplish that without today’s computers and online research. Everything is available to us. Then there are forums like TorahAnytime, where I deliver a weekly Chumash shiur, which can reach so many people and teach them Torah.

To give a recent example of today’s unparalleled opportunities: I just self-published A Guide to the Guide, which is a chapter-by-chapter summary of the Rambam’s Moreh Nevuchim in my own words. I’ve been working on this for five years with a chavrusa, because I’m fascinated by the Rambam and his seforim, and I wanted to open up this tremendous sefer of emunah so that absolutely anyone can read it. The Rambam is a legend among Jews of all stripes, and Moreh Nevuchim is a classic, so I tried to reach as many as I could. I’ve published it with Amazon, POD [Print on Demand,] which means that I don’t even need to keep inventory — it simply gets printed whenever someone orders it. A mechayeh! This simply could not have happened in a bygone age.

If I lived in the past, I might have been able to write one or two seforim, scratched out with a quill or inky pen. It could have taken two years to get each one printed on the printing press….

Author: Henye Meyer

A game changing writing tip:

Chekhov’s gun. The idea is that if you introduce any item in such a way as to bring it to the reader’s attention, it has to serve some purpose in the plot. I learned about this principle when I was writing A Stranger to My Brothers, with the Ulfberht sword. I made a big deal of it, but then I just let it drop. It didn’t DO anything. My wonderful editor pointed out that I needed to either get rid of it or find a use for it. In the end, that sword formed a crucial turning point that (obviously) strengthened the book.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 785)

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