The Reagans got a break from the troublesome political weather last night as controversy was put aside -- or deliberately avoided -- at a White House state dinner for Israeli President Chaim Herzog.

Designer Pauline Trigere caused flashes to flash by hiking up her long leopard-print dress to provide evidence that her legs could hold their own in the age of the miniirt. Arms negotiator Max Kampelman -- soon to leave for Geneva for presummit talks -- said there were some "outstanding problems" but denied the trip was an emergency or that the summit is in jeopardy. "To the best of my knowledge I'm sure the summit isn't. The trip was planned when Shultz and Shevardnadze met here."

And President Reagan refused to be drawn into any discussion of his reported nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Anthony M. Kennedy. ("You'll know shortly," he said when aed who he would nominate. Is the mystery nominee "clean"? "I'm betting he is," Reagan replied.)

But later, Secretary of Energy John S. Herrington, admitting that he had been "puzzled" when Kennedy wasn't nominated the first go-round, corroborated earlier reports that the California jurist would be the nominee. "Count on it. He'll make it. They've lined up the support."

Following the evening's pattern, newly installed FBI Director William Sessions insisted that his department's failure to discover that Judge Douglas Ginsburg had smoked marijuana hadn't made his entrance into the administration a difficult one.

"It's a delightful way to enter -- those are the problems of government," said a smiling Sessions, who was not in charge of the FBI during Ginsburg's security checks. And would the marijuana use have escaped his notice if he had been at the head of the department? "I couldn't comment on that."

First Daughter Maureen Reagan said she hadn't had time to think about the Ginsburg fiasco. "It was over with before I could."

The dinner, which marked the first time an Israeli president has paid a formal state visit to the United States, also marked the return of Nancy Reagan to official duties following her surgery for breast cancer and the death of her mother. Some observers felt the first lady looked wan at an arrival ceremony earlier in the day, but by dinnertime she appeared remarkably well. Wearing a pale green panne velvet dress with a tightly gathered waist, Mrs. Reagan smiled broadly, warmly nodding in response to mouthed words of encouragement from her press secretary Elaine Crispen.

"That's why it's important to get off your feet," Crispen said when reporters commented on the first lady's appearance. "She did that for several hours this afternoon. Her doctors say it will be a six-week recovery, but ..." Crispen shook her head, suggesting that six weeks of rest would be impossible.

And again last night, Mrs. Reagan got off her feet. After a solitary turn around the dance floor with the president, she led him toward the elevator.

The guest list for last night's dinner was, in outline, like most during the Reagan years: Administration insiders and supporters, a number of people with special interest in the evening's honoree, a few artsy types, a dress designer, the requisite members of the political opposition and faces from Hollywood's past.

Among the guests were several who are currently suspended in a state of transition.

If all goes as planned and predicted, Gen. Colin Powell will soon be replacing defense secretary-designate Frank Carlucci as national security adviser. "I would hope it would be sooner rather than later," Powell said. Aed if he had been surprised by the president's decision to name him NSC head, Powell said yes. "The question is when I was surprised."

"I've spent a lot of time looking over Roger's shoulder and seeing how it works," said Ralph Davidson, who will become Kennedy Center chairman in February, replacing Roger Stevens. "My pet project is going to be to try to bring as much American theater to the center as we can -- of course, we'll still bring those marvelous shows from England, too. We'll be trying to do more to make it the center of American arts."

While Herzog's toast did compliment Reagan for his "resolve and leadership" in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf, both presidents stressed another subject in their remarks -- a common background, for Herzog was born in Ireland.

The evening, Reagan said, "has a special significance for yet another reason: It's a great day for the Irish.

"I can't help but note that Ireland is so successful in producing national leaders, and Irish brogue carries as much influence in Jerusalem as here. That you were born in Ireland and that my ancestors came from there may seem accidental, but it speaks to the history of both Israel and the United States. Ours are nations of immigrants and nations of opportunity."

"Somewhere in our personality," he said, "we have a common advantage over many others -- that of the gift acquired with the Blarney Stone."

Earlier in the day, Herzog, whose position is largely ceremonial, addressed a joint session of Congress. "The winds of change may be blowing in the Soviet Union," he said, "but for us there is one litmus test -- that of the granting of full rights for Jews in the Soviet Union to learn their language, to adhere to their traditions and to be free to practice their religion as they wish."

As the guests arrived for dinner, Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, said he was not only pleased to be eating with Ronald Reagan, but also "very happy with his arrangements with the summit."

This is the first time, he said, that a U.S.-U.S.S.R. summit has been preceded by a statement "in which the subject of human rights is on the agreed agenda. The Soviets are no longer insisting it's an internal matter. I think it's a measure of the {Soviet} government feeling they want to negotiate with this power and they'll have to negotiate on all tracks. This {U.S.} government has insisted on this since Geneva and the persuasion has paid off.

"The crowds here on Dec. 6 will not be protesting against the summit," he said about demonstrations planned to coincide with the meetings, "but to support the president's position."

Before hearing soprano Roberta Peters sing, guests ate Supreme of Chicken in Golden Leaves and spaetzle, mache salad, and something called a Hot Dried Pear Souffle, which was mercifully topped with cinnamon whipped cream and caramel sauce.

Not all the talk was small. At White House Chief of Staff Howard Baker's table, questions were reportedly pointed as to why the administration wasn't making some definitive statement about the economic situation. Baker listened without comment.

Representing the interconnected worlds of movies, TV and product endorsements were June Allyson and Robert Young. Allyson said she has been friends with the Reagans "since our children were little tiny ones." The actress, who still retains the peppy manner and blond bangs of the girl next door she always played, has recently been seen by most Americans through her television ad for adult disposable diapers. She took on the job, she said, "because of my mother. My mother had a problem -- she had a stroke -- and I saw what a problem it could be."

Was it difficult serving as national spokeswoman for a product many would rather not discuss even in the privacy of their TV rooms? "It was at first, but when I realized how important it was ... I do a lot of work with senior citizens and a lot of them won't go out" -- she smiled even more widely, the peppy saleswoman coming to the surface -- "until I told them what to use."

Other guests included Sen. David Boren (D-Okla.), National Dance Institute Artistic Director Jacques d'Amboise, Barbara Walters, National Holocaust Memorial Chairman Harvey Meyerhoff, auto racing champion Danny Sullivan and George Bush Jr. While his wife casually patted his posterior, the vice president's son said his father was off campaigning. Country singer Janie Fricke managed to get in a plug for her upcoming shows. "We're on our way to do a concert for the American Royal horse show," she said, standing next to her husband and manager, composer Randy Jackson. "Also, I'm going to be appearing at the Veterans Hospital."

Trigere received one of the biggest flurries of attention, what with the ruff of fur that surrounded her face. "Oh, these are little sable tails," she explained. Trigere insisted she was a moderate on the question of hem length. "I like long for evening. Everyone is shortening a little bit, but it makes no sense to me to tell a woman where to wear her clothes. When it goes way, way up, I think it is no good. Although, I do have very good legs."

And for the record, she does.

The guest list for last night's state dinner: gstlist The President and Mrs. Reagan

Israeli President Chaim Herzog and Aura Herzog

Moshe Arad, ambassador of Israel, and Rivka Arad

Yossi Beilin, director general for foreign affairs

Oded Eran, minister, deputy chief of mission, Embassy of Israel, and Miriam Eran

Maj. Gen. Amos Yaron, defense and armed forces attache', Embassy of Israel, and Ilana Yaron

Nissan Limor, director general, Office of the President

Ehud Gol, spokesman and director, press division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Col. Emanuel Glua, aide-de-camp, Office of the President

Esther Bilu, personal assistant to the president

Wolf Blitzer, Jerusalem Post

S. Daniel Abraham, chairman, Thompson Medical Company Inc., and Tammy Abraham

Morris Abram, chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, and Susan Unterberg

Edward C. Aldridge Jr., secretary of the Air Force, and Jody Aldridge

June Allyson, actress, and David Prince Ashrow

Darek Baker and Karen Baker

Howard H. Baker, chief of staff to the president

Sen. David L. Boren (D-Okla.)

Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R-Minn.) and Ellen Boschwitz

George Bush and Laura Bush

Frank C. Carlucci III, assistant to the president for national security affairs and secretary of defense-designate, and Marcia Carlucci

Robert L. Crandall, chairman, American Airlines Inc., and Margaret Jan Crandall

Jacques d'Amboise, artistic director, National Dance Institute, and Carolyn George

Ralph P. Davidson, chairman, executive committee, Time Inc. and incoming president, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and Lou Davidson

Peter M. Dawkins and Judith Dawkins

Midge Decter, writer

Rep. Robert K. Dornan (R-Calif.) and Theresa Cobban

John R. Drexel IV, managing director, Kidder, Peabody & Co. Inc., and Jackie Drexel

Jonathan Farkas and Kimberly Farkas

Max M. Fisher, honorary chairman, United Brands Co., and Marjorie Fisher

Richard J. Fox, chairman, National Jewish Coalition, and Geraldine Fox

Janie Fricke, country music vocalist and fashion designer, and Randy Jackson, composer

Edward O. Fritts, president, National Association of Broadcasters, and Martha Dale

J. William Fulbright, former senator

Leonard Garment, attorney, and Suzanne Garment

Sen. Chic Hecht (R-Nev.) and Gail Hecht

John Herrington, secretary of energy

Ellen Hume, White House correspondant, The Wall Street Journal, and Prof. Warren Hunsberger

Ambassador Max M. Kampelman, counselor of the Department of State, and Marjorie Kampelman

John Loring, senior vice president and design director, Tiffany & Co.

Claudine Malone, president, Financial and Management Consulting Inc.

Paul Alan Marks, president, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and Joan Marks

Harvey M. Meyerhoff, chairman, National Holocaust Memorial, and Lyn Meyerhoff, former alternate delegate to United Nations

James C. Miller III, director, Office of Management and Budget, and Demaris Miller

Richard W. Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, and Anne Murphy

Johanna Neuman, White House correspondent, USA Today, and Ronald Nessen, vice president, news and special programming, Mutual Broadcasting System

Roberta Peters, opera singer, and Bertram Fields

Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, American ambassador to Israel, and Alice Pickering

Gen. Colin L. Powell, deputy assistant (and assistant-designate) to the president for national security affairs, and Alma Powell

Bruce Ramer, Gang, Tyre, Ramer & Brown Inc., and Ann Ramer

Maureen Reagan, cochairman, Republican National Committee

Selwa Roosevelt, U.S. chief of protocol, and Archibald B. Roosevelt Jr.

Arthur Ross, vice chairman, Central National Gottesman, and Janet Ross

Harold E. Sells, chairman, F.W. Woolworth Co., and Louise Sells

William S. Sessions, director, Federal Bureau of Investigation

George P. Shultz, secretary of state, and Margaret Shultz

Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.) and Nina Solarz

Herbert Stein, American Enterprise Institute, and Mildred Stein

Danny Sullivan, auto racing champion

Pauline Trigere, fashion designer

Owen Ullmann, White House correspondent, Knight-Ridder Newspapers, and Lois Kietur

Barbara Walters, cohost, "20/20," ABC-TV, and Merv Adelson, chairman, Lorimar-Telepictures Corp.

Ben Wattenberg, American Enterprise Institute, and Diane Wattenberg

Caspar W. Weinberger, secretary of defense

Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) and Carolyn Wolf

Robert Young, actor, and Elizabeth Young.