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The discussion is in the Talmud Sanhedrin 22a. The background is the disagreement among the Rabbis if the Torah was originally in Ivri or Ashuri. The Talmud says that according to the view that it was in Ivri, Ashuri script was first seen when the Angel wrote it on the wall, thus the Jews were not familiar with it - this is why they couldn't read it. ...


To summarize from Yishai's answer, the Talmud says there was something funny about the way it was written; "in columns" is one possible interpretation. Assuming Manasseh ben Israel gave Rembrandt a sketch of what the letters should look like, I'd find it more likely that the original sketch was vertical than Rembrandt messed up and did that on his own. ...

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