Question

Can one say just the brocha on the bread without washing hands if there is no water to wash hands?

Answer

If one is travelling on a journey, and knows that when he arrives at his destination there will be water available for him to wash his hands, then if the time required to travel to where there will be water is less than 72 minutes, he must do so and may not eat bread without washing. If he is travelling in a private vehicle and can get to water if he takes a detour from his journey, then he must do so if the detour will not add to his journey more than 36 minutes (18 minutes there and 18 minutes back to where he was). Similary if he is at home (and is not bedridden) and could get to water within 18 minutes walking (or if he has a car, within 18 minutes of driving) he must do so, and may not eat bread without washing.

However, if the distance is greater than those mentioned above, and he feels a great need to eat (he is weak from the travelling, for example, or he has an important meeting later and he will not be able to eat then) he may eat bread without washing his hnads. The correct procedure in such circumstances is to drape both hands with a cloth or garment and only then hold the bread. [If he has no other garment available, if there is no-one else present he should remove his shirt and cover his hands with it. If others are present and he will be embarrassed, he may hold the bread in a sandwich bag or the like.]

Sources:

Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim, 163:1, Mishnah Berurah note 3 and Biur Halachah.

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