In the yeshivah world, it is common custom (across all 'edot) to observe a vacation period surrounding certain holidays (e.g. Pessah) called Be'in HaZemanim.
When was this custom adopted and under what circumstances (location, intent, etc.)?
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Rabbi Belsky a'h once said in shiur that the source forBein HaZmanim is found in the words of Rava in Brachos 35b:
א''ל רבא לרבנן במטותא מינייכו ביומי ניסן וביומי תשרי לא תתחזו קמאי כי היכי דלא תטרדו במזונייכו כולא שתא.
Rava said to the Rabbis I request of you in the days of Nisan and in the days of Tishrei do not appear before me so that you will not be burdened with your livelihood the entire year.
Rashi explains that Nisan is harvest time and Tishrei is time for the winepress.
Basically, by working those two months they were able to make enough of a living for the whole year, which freed them up to spend the other months learning Torah. Had they not taken those two months off from learning, they would not have been able to dedicate their entire day to learning the rest of the year.
גם הבחורים מבטלים רוב הימים בבין הזמנים והולכים ברחובות בביטולים וטיולים....". מהרש"א, (הרב שמואל אליעזר אידלש, פולניה 1555-1631), חדושי אגדות לשבת דף קיט עמוד ב, בד"ה ואמר רבא).
באר שבע בהקדמה: "ביומי דמפגרי בהו רבנן שקורין בארצינו בין הזמנים"; (1550-1623) This seems to be an old minhag as mentioned in the maharsha. The beer sheva who only wrote on mesechtos not covered usually in yeshivot like the small kodshim ones, writes that he had nothing to do bain hazmanim so he wrote on those mesechtos. If not for bain hazmanim we would not have such a great meforash on these gemoros.