Many will look to their own volition, their own goodness and intention as suitable and enough to get the Almighty's attention. And his forgiveness. It is very good to have the right attitude, for sure. I wonder if we are really as serious, as kind-hearted, as honest as we should be in this regard. I'm not criticising anyone particularly at all! I remember my own long prayers during the day, and remember how sometimes I was sincere, and often I wasn't. Again, I'm not saying anything about everyone else; just wondering.
Still others commend their Orthodoxy, as if their religion and their particular prayers, from Kol Nidre to ne'ilah are comprehensive, with nothing left out. They daven shacharit, musaf, participate or exit for Yizkor, minchah, ma'ariv...it's all there. They sing correctly along with the choir or the chazan, they are very dedicated. Good for them! So are our prayers enough to convince the Almighty that He owes us forgiveness? What does the Proverbs say? (Prov. 28.9) "He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination." Ouch, and look out!
I remember that time in my teenage years when I went to Smaks Drive-in (a fast-food precursor to McDonalds) approximately 300 metres from my Orthodox synagogue in Kansas City. I had been Bar Mitzvah, and thus was a full member of the congregation, responsible for legal compliance and observance. And on Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, especially. So after the morning services were complete, I left the grounds, and walked over to Smaks and purchased a 19 cent hamburger. Pickles, ketchup, onion, all there on the small burger. And I downed it very quickly. Lest anyone see me. As if the Almighty were back in synagogue and didn't know I had left the grounds.
I returned to my parents' pew in the auditorium and sat next to them. Little did I know that some ketchup had stained the end of my white shirt's sleeve. And little did I understand that the smell of pickles and onion would also attract attention from the folks. The combination was deadly. I was caught out. On the day I was to be fasting and living holy and seriously repenting of my sins, I had gone out and sinned by eating. Terrible.
I tell that story to remind myself of the grace of G-d. He loves me. He loved me. He will ever love me. And His love is that on which I base my situation. And on which I base my forgiveness. I'm forgiven because of what Yeshua did for me 2,000 years ago. He was my kipporah, my atonement, who took my sins on himself and gave me eternal life. End of story. Not on the basis of what I earn, of the prayers I offer, or the kavanah (devotion) I demonstrate. Left to my own devices, I will turn from Him, and live for myself. I'm forgiven because Roman soldiers killed the Messiah on a cross. And that execution accomplished what none of my kavanah would ever produce.
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit." (Titus 3.5-6)
Thus the question of my being forgiven, in the exit poll or the early poll-- is answered in a cross. The cross of love. Thanks be to G-d.
Have an easy fast.