THE TALK OF THE TOWN
A DAY IN THE LIFE
September 6, 1999
On a recent Friday morning, Cantor
Philip L. Sherman found himself stuck in traffic on the Cross Bronx Expressway.
Sherman's destination was Melville, Long Island, where he was to perform
his third circumcision of the day. He had already been on Elizabeth Street
at 8 A.M., then on the Upper West Side. A tall man in his early forties
with a neatly trimmed black beard, he prides himself on spacing brises far
enough apart that he can arrive at each on in a calm, Zen-like state of
mind. But this was not a Zen moment for the mohel. He reached into the back
seat for his beeper and peered at it. Six new calls. He pulled a pad of
Post-its from his glove compartment and stuck a few on his steering wheel.
He balanced a folder on his lap. Then he called his voice mail on his hands-free
cell phone and listened to his messages over the speakerphone. The messages
all amounted to pretty much the same thing: It's a boy. When can we schedule
Sherman arrived at eleven-thirty, right on time, in front of a modern gray house with a bright-green lawn. He pulled a brush from his glove compartment and ran it through his thinning hair. Then he grabbed the Eddie Bauer computer bag filled with the tools of his trade, placed a sign on his dashboard - "Mazel Tov! Bris in progress. Please don't ticket" - and walked to the front door.
About sixty people were gathered in the mauve- carpeted, platformed living room. Sherman shook the new father's hand and took him aside.
"Let me tell you my secret, " he whispered. "After it's over, be sure to thank your wife for doing a great job and giving you such a perfect son."
The new father, owner of the local Jeep dealership, nodded seriously as, behind him, a sixtyish woman with silver hair announced to no one in particular, "I was at a bris in Westchester and I heard, 'Oh, he does all the brises in Westchester.' And then I went to a bris in Great Neck, and someone said, 'Oh, he does all the brises in Great Neck.'"
Sherman assembled his instruments - a thin metal probe, a small clamp, a scalpel - and covered them discreetly with a white cloth. His own thumbnails are sharpened into points, in case he needs to separate the mucosal layer beneath the foreskin. He stood in the center of the living room, in front of a mirrored bar, with a tallis draped over his shoulders.
By Dani Shapiro