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The Vilna Gaon in Aderes Eliyahu on Bereishis 1:1 explains that בריאה defines חידוש העצם, which he describes as that which no human,no matter how intelligent or advanced, could accomplish. Accordingly, the Gaon explains that in blessings the format of בורא פרי was established, because the essential act of creation is inimitable by mankind.


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The Vilna Gaon in Aderes Eliyahu at the beginning of Parshas Bereishis says b'riah is חידוש העצם, the creation of the "essence" of the object, yetzira is צורת הדבר בכמות, giving its dimensions or shape, and assiya is תיקון עשייתו, the set-up or preparation of its ongoing existence (the Gaon uses תקון to mean this in several contexts).


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The Ri ibn Shuaib explains in a d'rasha on B'reishis that בריאה refers to creation ex nihilo, יצירה refers to creating a basic form, and עשייה refers to completing and arranging a thing in its final state: ומלת בריאה, פירשו בו ז"ל, הוצאת יש מאין. ויצירה, ציור הדבר. והעשיה גמר הדבר ותיקונו. R' Aryeh Kaplan provides a similar explanation in his Sefer ...



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