Our Shul is very quiet, but we do allow talking between the Aliyos of the Torah reading. The Torah reading itself is usually pin-drop silent, but this past Shabbos we had a very unusual occurrence. Two members, who don’t normally sit next to each other continued talking through the entire seventh aliyah. It was a 7 posuk aliyah, with 2 short pesukim, but it was surprising that this boundary was breached for the entire aliyah.
In discussing it with a friend afterwords, we agreed that only people close by were in a position to give a quiet shush, since as we pointed out previously, loud long distance shushes are often more disturbing then the talking. In this particular case, the people closest to the talkers either didn’t notice it, or didn’t feel that it was their place to give even a quiet shush.
The next question was whether someone should say something to them after the incident. The conclusion we came to was that since these people don’t normally sit next to each other, and talking during leining is so rare in the Shul, it was better to not say anything. The reason for this is that even a gentle rebuke causes some discomfort to the members, and if it is not necessary to fix the situation it is better left unsaid. In general, the goal of rebuke is corrective, not punitive.
It takes some vigilance to keep the Shul at the quiet levels that most members cherish, but an infrequent breach is sometimes better left alone. If the situation occurs again, we’ll have to re-evaluate.