Peshat is always of paramount importance, and derash is always accountable to the peshat. Nevertheless, the dividing line between them is not always clear, and so long as we keep within the limits imposed by the peshat may we not explore rabbinic texts as the rabbis explored the biblical text-as literature capable of multifaceted meaning?
Raphael Jospe, “Hillel’s Rule,” The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 81, No. 1/2 (July-October, 1990), 56.