I discovered two weeks ago that the world looks very different when you find yourself lying flat on your back in the emergency room.

I have always found fasting difficult. But over the years I have learned that if I spend fast days at home praying, reading and sleeping in bed, then I can get through them relatively painlessly.

This past Yom Kippur night, as usual, I crossed the street to hear the Kol Nidre service, and then I came home a few minutes later to put my baby and myself to bed.

When the fast ended for the rest of the Jewish people, it didn't end for me

When I woke up in the morning, I already wasn't feeling well. It was 80 degrees out, but I was shivering underneath my sweater and two blankets. I had the symptoms of a bad stomach virus.

Our rabbi confirmed that I should stop fasting, but this didn't make any difference as I had a hard time keeping anything down.

When the fast ended for the rest of the Jewish people, it didn't end for me. I ate a dozen grapes, presented with much devotion by my worried daughters, and drank some tea with honey. But it was not long before the virus went to work on my post-fast feast as well.

At 10 PM, a doctor arrived. She took my blood pressure and my pulse, and asked us if she should order the ambulance, or would we?

By the time we got to the hospital, I was so weak that I could not even sit up. Lying on the hospital bed, my body ached and I was in great discomfort.

Most of the patients in the Emergency Room that night were garden-variety dehydrated mothers, like me, hooked up to an IV with fluids. Judging by the fact that it took three hours for a doctor to come to see me, we were clearly at the bottom of the totem pole in terms of the severity of what the doctors were dealing with the night.

Soon after my husband and I arrived, paramedics wheeled in a 27-year-old woman in critical condition, and the doctors and nurses were called over the loudspeakers to enter the shock trauma unit.

While I tried unsuccessfully to sleep, my husband anxiously watched this drama unfold. He found out that this young woman already had a complicated medical history, and he found out her Hebrew name and read Psalms for her.

I opened my eyes in time to see her getting pushed out of the trauma ward unconscious and on life support. She was followed by her young boyfriend and her mother, whose face and eyes were swollen and red.

For the rest of the night, as I tossed and turned, I continued to think about this 27-year-old, and imagined the various scenarios that had brought her there that night. Did she have leukemia, or was she born with a heart defect, or was she two months away from receiving a desperately-needed kidney transplant?

I thought of her boyfriend's devotion to her despite her illness, and her mother's strength and suffering. I imagined all of the urgent late-night calls from emergency rooms.

As I lay in that hospital bed, watching the nurses attending to the man with chest pains and an unconscious teenager, I thought about how on one level I had missed Yom Kippur that year. While most of the Jewish people had fasted, and prayed and pleaded for their lives and the lives of their families in synagogue, I had spent the whole day in bed, nibbling on crackers, unable to focus on anything outside of my own discomfort.

But in a way, I realized, I had experienced Yom Kippur's central lesson in a way that was far more profound than if I had spent the whole day on my feet until the final heart-rending shofar blasts of the Neila service.

This Yom Kippur, I saw how from one day to the next, I had changed from being an active, healthy person into a person who had to be wheeled by her husband in a wheelchair to go anywhere.

This Yom Kippur, I saw how from one hour to the next I had changed from being a person who runs from one activity to the next into a person who lies and waits for every minute, and the intense physical discomfort that it contains, to thankfully tick past.

This year, I did not hear a rabbi give his annual dramatic speech about the fragility of life, and about our total dependence on G‑d's mercy for that life. This year, instead, a microscopic virus flattened me down to the ground, so that I lived that Yom Kippur sermon.

This Yom Kippur and the days recuperating in bed that followed taught me another lesson to accompany me through this coming year as well.

Like most people, I tend to evaluate my self-worth based on my accomplishments. Every day, on a certain level, I judge whether I did enough good deeds that day, or whether I was sufficiently patient with my children that day, or whether I was efficient and managed to cross enough tasks off my to-do list for that day.

In general, this attitude suits me just fine.

During this Yom Kippur and its aftermath, though, this attitude only made me depressed, since these were days during which I accomplished absolutely nothing.

I had changed from being an active, healthy person into a person who had to be in a wheelchair

On Yom Kippur itself I felt too awful to pray, and I was not allowed to keep the fast. In the days that followed Yom Kippur, I stayed in bed, unable to care for my children, feed them, clean my house, or perform the vast majority of the tasks that I usually perform over the course of the day.

The only thought that cheered me up, that made me feel a little better about myself during this time, was a story that I heard before Yom Kippur from my teacher Rebbetzin Yemima Mizrachi.

Imagine, Rebbetzin Yemima suggests, that you have just taken your toddler to the park. Before you left your house, you scrubbed him clean in the bathtub and dressed him in a new sailor outfit that your parents just sent you.

In the park, an older woman presents your son with a half-melted chocolate bar. He eats it, and his hands and legs and shirt eat it too.

Then your son steps into a puddle and splashes in the water, and he gets all wet and covered with mud.

And for dessert, your son gets into the sandbox, and throws sand all over, and now his wet hair is full of sand.

Who does your son come to? You. With his chocolate-covered hands and his quivering lips he says, "Mommy, I'm dirty. Change me!"

And you, of course, pick up your disgusting child, and say, "Come here you beautiful boy," and change him.

This story is about G‑d's unconditional love for us, and the way that, on Yom Kippur, He ultimately embraces us despite our failings.

This year, during Yom Kippur, and during the days that followed it, I felt exactly like that disgusting child covered with chocolate and mud and sand. As I lay in bed, I felt that worthless. That absolutely unlovable.

But every time I thought of this story, it managed to bring a big smile to my face.

Because it reminded me that G‑d loves me even though I am covered in chocolate and mud and sand and who-knows what else. And even though I had a thoroughly un-spiritual Yom Kippur. And even though this stomach virus has turned me into such a miserable excuse for a human being.

This coming Shabbat, the Jewish people will once again start the cycle of reading the Torah from its very beginning, Parshat Bereishit. Chassidic philosophy teaches us that if we want to know what is going on in the world and in our lives on the deepest level, all we need to do is open the weekly Torah portion.

This week as we approach Shabbat Bereishit, our lives, therefore, are all about beginning and renewal. This is the week to remember the inspiration, aspirations, and deep lessons of the High Holidays, and to use them to enhance and improve our lives for the coming year. This is the week, the Rebbes of Chabad teach us, which will determine whether we get our year started on the right foot.

As I approach Parshat Bereishit this year, I carry within me the lessons I learned two weeks ago in that emergency room. In particular, I carry in my heart that disgusting child with his hair filled with sand. I carry within my heart the memory of the unconditional love that G‑d feels for each and every one of us as we reach towards Him with our chocolate-covered hands and our quivering lips.