b'JEWISH CALENDAR COMPANIONthe high court, the pious, elders, and men of renown all joined the celebrations. It was said that Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel used to juggle flaming torches (Succah 53a). Sages became acrobats. Scholars did somersaults. They considered it the ultimate dignity to sacrifice your dignity in the sacred cause of joy. To illuminate the Temple at night, three giant candelabra were lit, each with four gold basins and multiple wicks, filled with oil by young men from priestly families. It was said that the whole of Jerusalem was lit by the radiance that emanated from these lamps. The singing and dancing went on until dawn.There was no other moment in the Jewish year quite like Succot. Even before the building of the Temple, we read of an annual festival for God at Shilo at which young women danced in the vineyards (Judges 21:1920). Once the harvest had been gathered, and the Days of Awe had concluded, people had both reason and time to celebrate. This meant that the crowds were larger at this festival than at any other time of the year, even Pesach. It was the obvious time for great national ceremonies. The Torah states that every seven years, at the end of the year of release, the king must convene a national assembly and read Torah to the people (Deut. 31:1013). This was, in effect, a covenant renewal ceremony, reminding the people of their past, their collective raison dtre and their commitments to God. The Torah specifies that this was a family celebration which all men, women and children should attend. It was a solemn reminder of who the people were, and why.For the same reason, Solomon chose this time to consecrate the Temple his father had planned. The celebrations were launched by a historic speech from Solomon, and went on for two weeks, the second of which was Succot. Then the people blessed the king, going back to their tents happy and buoyant of heart over all the goodness that the Lord had performed for His people, Israel (I Kings 8:66).Centurieslater,inamuchmorelow-keyceremony,theSecond Temple was also dedicated on Succot. Work on the Temple then lapsed for some seventeen years. Eventually, Jewish life, and with it the restoration of the Temple as the spiritual heart of the nation, was re-energised by two remarkable leaders who had recently arrived from Babylon: Ezra and Nehemiah. Together they convened a new national assembly, one of the most important in Jewish history.It began on the first of Tishrei, the day we now know as Rosh Hashanah. In a conscious echo of the septennial address by the king, Ezra stood on 3'