Objective: To explore the reasons for and the content of consultations between patients and the clergy on medical matters. Setting: four general practices in central Israel. Design: exploratory descriptive study of 42 patients who had consulted rabbis. They were asked about what they expected from the consultation, what happened and with what effect. Results: 90% of consultations were with rabbis who had earned a special reputation for dealing with medical problems, rather than with a local community rabbi. Reproductive problems, psychiatric, and general surgical problems accounted for the majority of consultations. Most patients went to the rabbi for advice or direction; 25% went for a blessing. In general it was recommended that they change doctors, even when this was not the advice they expected. Only rarely was there any contact between the rabbi and the doctor. In over half the cases the idea of consulting the rabbi came from family or friends rather than from the patients. Being actively religious did not seem to be a necessary characteristic of patients who consulted rabbis. Conclusions: Rabbis in a medical role do not seem to practise faith healing as such, but rather act to strengthen a patient's faith in the treatment. The medical system does not always succeed in engendering this faith, either in the patient or in the family.